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Fanfare Magazine: 44:2 (11-12/2020) 
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Code-barres / Barcode : 7318599922218

Urgently recommended.

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Reviewer: James A. Altena

Masaaki Suzuki is now simultaneously recording both the complete organ works and the complete harpsichord works of Bach; having begun the former series only in the last two years, the latter series is more advanced, though it has been unfolding quite slowly. Between the two, I’d rather that he focus on finishing the harpsichord works first, for the simple reason that there are plenty of fine sets of the complete organ works (though so far his is competitive with the very best), whereas the very few complete cycles of the keyboard works are all of uneven quality. If and when (please, dear God, let it be when and not if) Suzuki completes his set, he will sweep the board clean of those prior competitors. So far he has released the following, to uniformly laudatory reviews:

- Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 846–869 (1997) (Bernard Jacobson, 20:6)

- Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 (1998) (Bernard Jacobson, 21:4)

- BWV 903, 904, 917, 918, 923, 944, 951, 992, 993 (2000) (not reviewed)

- 15 Inventions and 15 Sinfonias, BWV 772–801 (2000) (Michael Ullman, 23:4)

- 6 Partitas, BWV 825–830 (2002) (not reviewed)

- French Suites, BWV 812–817, and Suites, BWV 818a and 819a (2004) (Brian Robins, 27:6)

- Italian Concerto, BWV 971, French Overture in b, BWV 831, Sonata in d, BWV 964 [arrangement of the Violin Sonata, BWV 1003] (2006) (Raymond Tuttle, 30:2)

- Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, BWV 870–893 (2009) (Patrick Rucker, 33:2)

- English Suites, BWV 806–811 (2019) (Jerry Dubins, 43:1)

- 7 Toccatas, BWV 910–916 (2020) (this review)

This release, then, completes the larger collected sets of pieces, leaving only about three or four CDs of miscellaneous shorter works to go, depending on whether or not Suzuki makes separate integral recordings of the pieces in the Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and the Notenbuch für Anna Magdalena Bach.

There is no reason to make this a lengthy review. Simply put, this is the finest integral recording of these works that I have ever heard. While Suzuki is not perfect—see my review in 44:1 of his disappointing new version of the St. Matthew Passion—when he is on form (which is the vast majority of the time) there is no other person alive who has absorbed Bach’s music so thoroughly and reproduces it so well. Here there is always imagination and taste, but never eccentricity. Tempos are moderate, rhythms are finely sprung, embellishments are tasteful. The instrument is a two-manual harpsichord built in 1982 by Willem Kroesbergen, modeled after an enlarged Ruckers. Its tone quality occupies a happy medium between more steely- and more delicate-sounding instruments; the tone is not delicately sweet and bell-like, but neither is it clangorous. Instead, it has just the right degree of muscularity to project Bach’s energetic thematic material and counterpoint, while keeping rhythms and harmonies crisp and clear. BIS provides its usual first-class recorded sound, plus fine booklet notes in an ultra-slim all cardboard case. Urgently recommended.


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