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GRAMOPHONE (07/2016)
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Resonus Classics 

Harmonia Mundi 

Code-barres / Barcode : 5060262790670 Code-barres / Barcode : 0093046758325



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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp

The ‘French’ seem to be the least favoured on record among Bach’s keyboard suites, yet also perhaps the ones most played by people in their homes – including Bach’s, it is generally supposed. Julian Perkins performs them on the ever-intimate clavichord, and very sweet and delicate they sound on it. Actually he uses two clavichords, both copies of German late-18th-century models: the one used for Suites Nos 1, 5 and 6 has a thin but silvery singing tone, while Nos 2, 3 and 4 are heard on an instrument with a brighter, pingier sound almost like a mandolin. The ability to play loud and soft, albeit within a very narrow and low-level range – is effectively exploited by Perkins; melodies sing over their accompaniments and the soft-curved sarabandes (the Fifth especially) are shaped with beauty and feeling. Maybe some rapid passages that do not lie so neatly under the hands lose their poise, but that doesn’t stop this being a well-executed and attractive release, worth investigating for its different slant on the music. Perkins includes the preludes found in some sources for Suites Nos 4 and 6, and complements Bach with fine little suites by Froberger and Telemann.


Richard Egarr uses a copy of a French harpsichord for his enjoyable recording, and what a beauty it is, especially in the single 8ft register! Egarr’s sarabandes are not as lovingly done as Perkins’s but his allemandes are as delightful as I have heard, like lazily flowing summer rivers intrigued by rubato eddies. The heavier registration used for courantes and gigues confirms, however, that the overall conception here is bigger – indeed, if one didn’t know the Bach Partitas and English Suites existed, Egarr’s bold and confident bearing might prevent one thinking of these suites in the conventional way as ‘small’ at all. As usual, he adds plenty of surface ornamentation, mostly in the form of trills, filled-in intervals and broken-chord flickers, but their ubiquity can make them seem rather dutiful after a while. Mind you, who nowadays would attempt to match the daring elegance of Bach’s own variant passage in the second half of the Fifth Sarabande, used as a repeat ornament by both Perkins and Egarr, and enough to remind one of the greatness that lies even in what can seem Bach’s most unassuming music?

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