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Partitas BWV 825-830
General Discussions - Part 2 (2002)

Continue from Part 1

Bach Partitas

Francine Renee Hall wrote (February 13, 2002):
I think Christophe Rousset does a wonderful job with the Bach Partitas. On L'Oisseau-Lyre (440-217). CD 1: Partitas No. 1, 2 6; CD 2: Partitas 3, 4, 5. Any comments? -- (on a Henri Hemsch harpsichord, 1751) P.S. I enjoy Rousset's recordings in general more than I do Moroney's. With Rousset we forget that this fine harpsichordist is playing and remember that Bach is the one to remember here. With Moroney I feel Bach takes backstage to the artist. In other words we should be listening to Bach, with the player taking a respectful step back.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 13, 2002):
[To Francine Renee Hall] As far as the partitas are concerned, on harpsichord, there is no lack of excellent recordings. The following are more or less in the order of my favorites to less favorite:

Edward Parmentier (Wildboar)
Trevor Pinnock (Hanssler)
Scott Ross (Erato)
Blandine Verlet (Naive)

A special note should go to Richard Troeger for his clavichord recording on Lyrichord which is excellent, but may not please some listeners because of the unique tone of the instrument.

 

Partita recording reccos

Craig Schweickert wrote (August 29, 2002):
Having listened repeatedly of late to Scott Ross's and Glenn Gould's performances of BWV 825-830, both of which I enjoy (for entirely different reasons), I'm in the market for another interpretation. In theory, Verlet's newish Astrée/Naïve set appeals but, geesh, is it expensive. And while I haven't seen a copy for a while, her earlier recording was reissued on a Philips Duo twofer; how does it stack up? Pinnock's mid-price Hännsler set has garnered strong reviews but the short excerpt I heard on the radio struck me as rather earthbound. Sets by Rousset and Leonhardt (the latter sans repeats, I believe) are also available. And those are only the ones I recall seeing. My preference is for HIP and a harpsichord (has anyone recorded them on a clavichord?), though I'm not ruling out insightful interpretations on the piano. Reccos, anyone? What are your favourite recordings and why? TYVM.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 29, 2002):
[To Craig Schweickert] My recommendation: Edward Parmentier on harpsichord, Wildboar 9101. It's on a Keith Hill double based on a Hamburg Zell. (That instrument is wonderful, basically a BMW of the harpsichord world; I've played it often and it lets the player do anything, so many expressive options. And Parmentier brings out amazing things with it, there are seemingly new things to hear in his interpretation every time one listens to it.)

Richard Troeger has recorded all six partitas on clavichord (on Lyrichord 8038) but I feel his tempos are almost all too fast...the notes zip by so quickly it might as well not even be a clavichord! It's slick and exciting, but IMHO it ultimately drains some of the multi-dimensionality out of the music. Also on clavichord, Yuko Wataya plays #6 only (Rene Gailly 87 139) and her performance is gorgeous: she allows plenty of time for things to happen, and they do.

Jim Morrison wrote (August 29, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Yeah, my primary recco would be Parmentier as well. This is one of my favorite harpsichord discs.

That Yuko Wataya disc is also not to be missed. Listen to side-by-side with the Troeger and I think you'll hear a world of difference, not only with the involvement level of the playing, but also the sound of the clavichord. Wataya is much better, imo.

A novelty disc I have is Erik Feller playing the first three partitas on organ! Okay, but doesn't really resonate with me, and I haven't really given this disc the attention it probably deserves. I'm not an organ fan in the first place, preferring clavichords, harpsichords and pianos over them. Go figure.

Did Feller ever record the last three partitas?

Belder, on Brilliant Classics is pretty good.

I didn't much care for the Gilbert set.

Jaccottet is a fine player, if you can get through the somewhat lackluster recording sound. I wonder if it's the instrument she plays, poor recording technology, or both? But that set is out of print. As is, I think, the Gilbert

I haven't heard either Verlet, Leonhardt, Pinnock, Ross, Carolan, Kipnis, or Rampe.

Go far the Parmentier. Craig, do you have any of his recordings? I'd say he's one of the most Hopkinson Smith-like of all the harpsichordists I've heard. Could you say he's Hopkinsonian?

Juozas Rimas wrote (August 29, 2002):
< Go far the Parmentier. Craig, do you have any of his recordings? I'd say he's one of the most Hopkinson Smith-like of all the harpsichordists I've heard. Could you say he's Hopkinsonian? >
I've never heard Parmentier. I'm looking for a harpsichord version of WTCs now and I wonder whether he has recorded it. What about the performance level of other major works? English Suites? French Suites?

I'm very happy with Hantai's Goldbergs (at least some of them). What about Parmentier's Goldbergs?

Kirk McElhearn wrote (August 29, 2002):
[To Craig Schweickert] I would probably choose Parmentier above all on harpsichord, followed by Pinnock (excellent), Ross and Lucy Carolan. I got Badura-Skoda not long ago, and like it, but haven't listened much. And I very much like Troeger on clavichord.

Craig Schweickert wrote (August 30, 2002):
Partita recording reccos redux: Parmentier and Wataya

Thanks for the suggestions so far.

I've never seen a Wildboar or Rene Gailly disk in Canada, and searches at: HMV Canada turn up zilch. Are they distributed outside the US?

Both can be ordered online: the Parmentier via, for example, via: Musical Offering
(the site also includes a listing of all Wildboar titles in print) and the Wataya via
CD Universe
CD Choice

Can one buy them off the shelf at large diskmongers in the northeast US (NYC, DC, Boston)? Since shipment to Canada by FedEx, UPS, etc. is out due to the $40 brokerage fee they sometimes slap on goods they bring in, if I order online, delivery will have to be by mail. Not going to do much for my partita jones...

A Google search on "Wataya Gailly" comes up with only four hits: the above two, a reference in passing to the album in an archived discussion of Hill's Bach as Teacher disk on www.bach-cantatas.com and a web page devoted to a clavichord music on CD that also lists some of Brad's recordings http://members.aol.com/dcsdd/engl/cdeng.htm

Can anyone provide info about Yuko Wataya (Is he/she Japanese? What is his/her musical background?) or about the Rene Gailly label (Is it French? Do they have a website?)?

Am surprised nobody's chimed in with a word for Verlet. Aren't the partitas right up her alley?

Donald Satz wrote (August 30, 2002):
[To Jim Morrison] It looks like I'll be the sole person on the list not strongly recommending the Parmentier Partitas. Although a fine set of performances, I feel he meanders too much. His 4th Partita is worst in this regard I prefer Leonhardt and Pinnock; best of all is Gould's piano version with a wonderful 4th Partita.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (August 30, 2002):
Craig Schweickert wrote:
< Am surprised nobody's chimed in with a word for Verlet. Aren't the partitas right up her alley? >
I like them a lot, though I would not put them at the top of my list. I think I did a brief of them several months ago - check the archives.

Pete Blue wrote (August 30, 2002):
[To Craig Schweickert] Craig and other Canadians:

I have ordered frequently from www.mymusic.com, an online retailer based in Ottawa. They carry a lot of non-mainstream classical labels, including Wildboar. If you access their website, click on "Classical Music Search", and type in "Wildboar" in the "Label" box, you'll get a list of what appears to be all the Wildboar issues, including Parmentier's Partitas and English Suites, which are on my To Get List, though not at the very top. (Mymusic does not always have in stock what their website says they do, however.)

AT the very top of my To Get List is the Zig-Zag 2-CD set of the French Suites played by harpsichordist Blandine Rannou, which Kirk McElhearn enthused about some time ago (Message # 7538). The sound samples thereof on the fnac website are fantastic, IMO; finally, a supplantation of, or at least a worthy alternative to, my ancient Thurston Dart LP, which remains uniquely charming due to Dart's clavichord playing, but which lacks both the latest scholarship and the repeats we justifiably insist on these days.

Pete Blue wrote (August 30, 2002):
[To Craig Schweickert] <> Kirk's review of Rannou's French Suites is Message # 6538, not 7538.

Juozas Rimas wrote (August 30, 2002):
< AT the very top of my To Get List is the Zig-Zag 2-CD set of the French Suites played by harpsichordist Blandine Rannou, which Kirk McElhearn enthused about some time ago (Message # 7538). The sound samples thereof on the fnac website are fantastic, IMO; finally, a >
I listened to the samples - I especially liked tempos of the Sarabandes. I've heard only several versions of French Suites so far but only here Sarabandes are played slowly enough.

I can't perceive the sound of the harpsichord itself well due to the low quality of samples though. Is the instrument a good one? Some harpsichords sound so soft sometimes and others are harsh regardless of the performer's efforts.

Bradley, maybe you know what kind of harpsichord Zuzana Ruzickova is using in her Complete Bach (Teldec) performances? I had the opportunity to hear some parts of the set (eg minuets BWV841, 842) and her harpsichord sounded as if it were somehow artificially softened and the microphone put somewhere inside the instrument. Everything resulted in an extremely warm sound with absolutely no echoing. Maybe it's not the standard but I enjoyed the sound color.

I also wonder who provided the ornamentation for Rannou's suites. Is it Bach's own ornamentation, one supplied by some 19th century editor or one reconstructed according to the strict rules of the period?

Jim Morrison wrote (August 30, 2002):
[To Craig Schweickert] Hope I'm not repeating information here, but...

It looks like at least a few Wildboar discs can be bought from Amazon.de. I imagine export from the USA, however, is very limited. Shame, they have some great discs. Spencer, I'm happy to say, use to be an email buddy of mine. I've probably told the list about it before, how he'd write me with a "you've just got to hear this" update. Verlet's Couperin, for example. He also turned me onto Hantai's Frescobaldi. What a loss, his passing.

I occasionally see some Wildboar cds in the stores.

I'd guess that Verlet's recent Partitas are exceptional, but at the moment they aren't in print in the USA. Maybe someday soon. I'm sure I'll get a copy in the future. Maybe it's time for another international order.

Pete Blue wrote (August 30, 2002):
Jim Morrison wrote:
< I'd guess that Verlet's recent Partitas are exceptional, but at the moment they aren't in print in the USA. >
Jim: Au contraire. I just saw Verlet's Partitas on a Philips Duo offered for $14.99 (total for 2 CDs) at towerrecords.com, in stock, but "Low Stock". There are sound samples there, too. Is this the "recent Partitas" you're referring to, or an older recording?

Kirk McElhearn wrote (August 30, 2002):
[To Pete Blue] That's the older one. The new one is on Naïve.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 30, 2002):
[To [To Craig Schweickert] For the Yuko Wataya CD on Rene Gailly:

Rene Gailly's address is Rene Gailly Productions, Rue Oscar Maesschalckstraat, 12-B, 1083 Brussels Belgium.

Their web site is http://users.skynet.be/renegailly but there's currently nothing there but a placeholder. Has the company disappeared?

They were distributed in the USA by Qualiton (Qualiton) but appear not to be at the moment. I also tried a search at http://music.yahoo.com/classical which is usually very good at searching across many web shops...but "Wataya" is not found. If I remember correctly, I got mine from Amazon.Com two years ago; and it's not listed there now. I'd say grab it from CDChoice while you still can....

This CD was recorded in Belgium on January 25-26, 1997, and released in 1998. According to the booklet note, Wataya is a graduate of the Toho University of Tokyo and studied harpsichord with Robert Kohnen and Allen James in Brussels; she now teaches harpsichord at the Centre for Classical Instruments in Tokyo.

-----

I have Blandine Verlet's 1977-78 set of the Partitas on Philips (both on LP and CD) but haven't yet heard the Astree remake. I imagine the two are very different from one another; Verlet's playing has changed radically over the past 25 years.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 30, 2002):
[To Pete Blue] For the 1977-78 Verlet set of Partitas on Philips there are sound samples at: http://shopping.yahoo.com/shop?d=product&id=1921533923&clink=

I haven't yet found samples for the Astree remake. Is it available in the US yet? It appears not to be. Does Naive/Auvidis still have the silliest web site on the planet? I haven't looked at it recently....

Craig Schweickert wrote (August 30, 2002):
[To Pete Blue] As far as I know, there are two Verlet two recordings, a 1970s or 1980s performance reissued on the Philips twofer you mention and a 2001 perfromance on Astrée/Naïve E8849, which Gramophone's Lindsay Kemp quite disliked ("Blandine Verlet ... shows rather less self-control; she snatches at three or four different tempos along the way, and her overall manner comes across as heavy-handed, impestuous, brusque. For the listener, it is almost a bruising experience ... Her use of tangy meantone tuning also produces moments of rather exquisite intonational discomfort. On the whole, though, her playing irritates more than it pleases, being mostly just too clattery and eccentric. And I can never forgive her for that Fourth Allemande."). Kemp also doesn't care for her ("surprisingly aggressive and muscular") instrument, the magnificent 1624 Ruckers used for so many of her Naïve recordings. Of course, Kemp also savaged Verlet's fascinating Froberger disk; I get the impression he cottons only to well-manicured performances.

Thanks, by the way, for the pointer to mymusic.com. Had no idea it existed. Have already placed an order for the Parementier partitas and the Wataya recital; will see how long delivery takes. Mymusic.com's prices and selection are quite good, though oddly a search on Hopkinson Smith turned up no hits.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (August 30, 2002):
Bradley Lehman wrote :
< Does Naive/Auvidis still have the silliest web site on the planet? I haven't looked at it recently.... >
Still on construction but much better than the last time I looked there: http://www.naiveclassique.com

Kirk McElhearn wrote (August 30, 2002):
Bradley Lehman wrote :
< For the 1977-78 Verlet set of Partitas on Philips there are sound samples at: http://shopping.yahoo.com/shop?d=product&id=1921533923&clink=
I haven't yet found samples for the Astree remake. >
Here: Fnac

Make sure it's in one line.

I like the "style brisee" of her playing on this...

Craig Schweickert wrote (August 30, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] The Astrée/Naïve set has been in Montreal shops for close to a year now. It can be ordered online from HMV for US$36: go to the classical web site and do a search on verlet; it's the first album listed.

http://www.naive.fr/index.html is as endearingly Pythonesque (and as uninformative) as ever, though it doesn't appear to have been updated lately. The têteàtête release of Smith's set of Bach's lute works gives a new address but I can't get it to load: http://www.naiveclassique.com

Pete Blue wrote (August 30, 2002):
[To Craig Schweickert] The Astree remake of Verlet's Partitas, which as Craig says is US$36 plus shipping at hmv.com, seems to be considerably cheaper, for North Americans anyway, at MDT, a great old British music store whose website has always been great for service and has never let me down in having in stock what they have listed. MDT's price (minus VAT for export) is BPS (British Pounds Sterling) 14.47, plus shipping of BPS 0.75 per CD. That's a total of about US$25, I believe. MDT has no sound samples, though.

Pete Blue wrote (August 30, 2002):
Craig Schweickert wrote:
< Mymusic.com's prices and selection are quite good, though oddly a search on Hopkinson Smith turned up no hits. >
There must be a glitch in mymusic's search engine. If you go to "Classical Music Search" and type "smith" in the Soloist box and type "lute" in the Instrument box, you end up with lots of Hoppy.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (August 31, 2002):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Also on clavichord, Yuko Wataya plays #6 only (Rene Gailly 87 139) and her performance is gorgeous: she allows plenty of time for things to happen, and they do. >
Is this a CD or a Rene Gailly LP from the guten alten Zeit?

Daniel Page wrote (August 31, 2002):
Craig Schweickert wrote:
< Thanks, by the way, for the pointer to mymusic.com. Had no idea it existed. Have already placed an order for the Parementier partitas and the Wataya recital; will see how long delivery takes. Mymusic.com's prices and selection are quite good, though oddly a search on Hopkinson Smith turned up no hits. >
If you type the performers entire name in the Soloist box you have to put the last name first. I just ran a search on "smith, hopkinson" and got 42 matches whereas "hopkinson smith" comes up empty.

DP (who now returns to the realm of lurkdom)

Peter Bright wrote (September 2, 2002):
[To Craig Schweickert] Personally, I was quite surprised by the number of list members praising the new Verlet in such high terms, but this was based on my opinions on the earlier Duo set which I rarely listen to. I have placed the new recording on my list of CDs to check out. My own particular favourite on harpsichord is Trevor Pinnock's which you mention (I find it a very involving version - dramatic and not unduly reserved at all). Do try Angela Hewitt's piano interpretation on Hyperion - I rate this, along with her French suites and recent toccatas (review on its way shortly) far and away her best work in Bach. Incidentally, I remain unimpressed with her Inventions and Goldberg discs although both have been very favourably reviewed by Gramophone). For a taster try her corrente in partita 1 - wonderful bright, dynamic playing.

 

Partitas

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 18, 2002):
Juozas Rimas wrote:
<< I tried again over lunch, putting on the second Hänssler disc and letting it run through partita 3 and into partita 4. We got about 2/3 of the way through partita 3 and my wife remarked, "That player sure doesn't have much sense of line, does he?" I agreed. I let it run for a while yet, and then during the overture of partita 4 I
had had enough and jumped up and switched it off. Ah, blessed silence. I find Pinnock's delivery that irritating! >>
< What are the other choices then? There must be some more noteworthy harpsichord recordings of the partitas. According to
www.jsbach.org there are harpsichord renditions by Gilbert, Kirkpatrick, Ross, Staier and Karl Richter(??) as well as by the following performers I don't know so far: Carolan, Dreyfus, Rousset and Verlet.
There is also a clavichord version by Troeger but how does the Praeambulum of the 5 partita sound on the quiet instrument? >
We were just talking about the new Verlet set on Astree here last week (two weeks?) and it sounds promising; I haven't heard more than samples yet but was impressed with those. And her playing is all-around much better than it was 25 years ago.

Of the harpsichord sets I currently have, I prefer them in this sequence: Parmentier (multi-dimensional), Jaccottet (so warm and flexible!), Leonhardt (omits too many repeats, and a dry interpretation), Kirkpatrick (rough), Verlet (on Philips...too restless), Pinnock (yawn).

I've heard Rousset's once and it bored me almost as much as Pinnock. Too slick.

I also have the Troeger set (clavichord) but most of his tempos are too fast for me. Doesn't let the instrument ring....

As we mentioned last week, Yuko Wataya playing #6 on clavichord is a treasure.

Peter Bright wrote (September 19, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] I'm also intrigued by the great reviews here of the Parmentier recording - is there a site where I can test drive some of the tracks? I'm worried that, as Brad (whose views always seem exceptionally well informed and interesting) doesn't like the Pinnock, I won't like the Parmentier. Pinnock's recent Hanssler set is never far away from my player - I find the presence, variety of tone (albeit more across than within movements), and overall interpretation very impressive, more so than Jaccotet (more flexible and open playing but somehow distant and uninvolving) and the earlier Verlet rereleased on Philips Duo (loose and relatively unengaging). I originally picked up the Pinnock based on it being a Gramophone and BBC disc of the year (perhaps a British bias?) - in fact, I've never read a bad review outside of this group!

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 19, 2002):
[To Peter Bright] I'll try to characterize some of the major differences I hear between Parmentier and Pinnock (Hanssler) in the partitas; maybe that will help us figure out what we're listening for....

-----

Parmentier: Derives his articulations from the mood (Affekt), a sense of dance (especially in the left hand), and then a moment-to-moment reaction to how he feels it as things go along. He's not averse to bringing in slight irregularities to point out interesting notes or phrases, surprising the listener.

Pinnock: Seems to pick an articulation (most often a steady legato) at the beginning of a movement and stick with it consistently throughout...after hearing the first few bars, you know how all the rest of the movement is going to play out and there are few surprises.

-----

Parmentier: Live acoustic, plenty of clarity.

Pinnock: A too-muddy acoustic in which all kinds of details get lost, especially in the left hand, and aggravated by Pinnock's over-use of legato....

-----

Parmentier: Rhythm sounds buoyant, springing from within the phrases, moving seemingly under its own ever-changing power. The music dances, flits, and sings like spoken syllables. There are slight irregularities everywhere, but they seem to arise from natural reactions to the phrases and motifs. In short, it sounds organic and lively.

Pinnock: Everything is steady and even, with a firm drive that feels (to me)muscular and heavy. The music is presented in large paragraphs without much local detail; with extreme regularity. In short, the timing sounds mechanically imposed, more like mathematical meter than real rhythm, and (to me) "deadly" as the opposite of lively.

-----

Parmentier: Every moment is expressive, there's something to see in the scenery; and he points out different features during the repeats, using timing and articulation along with his tasteful ornamentation. Everything sounds spontaneous, as if he's enjoying the music along with us and discovering things as he plays instead of working out everything ahead of time. He lets the moments move him and change how he plays.

Pinnock: The scenery doesn't seem as important as presenting whole movements as monolithic blocks, objective structures. All detail seems worked out far ahead in a practice session, and delivered during the recording session with careful aplomb.

-----

Parmentier: Brings out Bach's polyphonic melody in the right hand, letting it sound like two or three independent voices. Multi-dimensional: many things for the ear to follow, and an ever-changing texture that is always engaging. And Parmentier encourages us to follow a different part on the repeat.

Pinnock: The overall consistency of articulation makes the right hand seem more like a single line than polyphony. One-dimensional: the music seems to use itself up the first time around, and the repeat seems tedious, not telling us much that we hadn't already heard.

-----

Parmentier: dynamic, irregular (engagingly inconsistent), subtle, probing. An improvisatory-sounding interpretation within the strong Affekts that guide all decisions: a human being's real-time reaction to events that are presented. A conversation with the music. Bach as a human being, ever-changing, dealing with life.

Pinnock: static, perfectionistic (consistent, to a fault), objective, extremely polished. Sounds to me like a "null" interpretation, not really taking a personal stance on anything or reacting much to the Affekt of the music. Set things into motion, let them whir along steadily. Bach as a disembodied cosmic genius, too mathematically perfect and distant to trifle with mere mortal beings.

-----

We had the Parmentier set on in the car today and my wife remarked, "I sure like listening to him. Such a sense of line! And he brings out all sorts of things you wouldn't notice otherwise." Recall that she said the opposite while hearing Pinnock yesterday, as I mentioned, complaining about there being no line. She and I are clearly on the same wavelength in our preference here: Parmentier brings out line(s) better than Pinnock!

Those of you who are fans of the Pinnock set: I'm curious to hear more about what you especially like in it. I know that people perceive things differently, and enjoy different things, and it would be interesting to hear that difference elucidated.

Jim Morrison wrote (September 19, 2002):
Sounds like Brad is saying Pinnock plays harpsichord as if he's a piano player. ;-)

Surely that must be an old insult in the harpsichord world: You play like a pianist!

Peter Bright wrote (September 19, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Hi Brad, thanks very much for your thoughtful reply.

I would like to spend more time explaining what I admire about Pinnock's approach but only have time for a couple of thoughts. The first is his confidence and restraint (the latter being one reason for your disappointment in the performance). Pinnock, to my untrained ears at least, has a mastery over the instrument that enables him to play precisely but effortlessly. Certainly, as I think the original reviewer in Gramophone (Nicholas Anderson?) pointed out, the lack of variations in tempo within movements could be construed as tedious, and this seems to be where we differ in our response to his technique. For me, it is precisely his sense of control and precision that is so admirable - if he also didn't possess such mastery of technique I'm sure I wouldn't respond in the same way. There is a real sense of forward motion that avoids unnecessary haste or loosely applied additions to the score (trills and such) giving a natural, unaffected reading. As an analogy, think of the comparison between, say Davitt Moroney and Robert Hill in the Art of Fugue. The Hill is a brilliant reading, but the more measured (and dull to some listeners) Moroney recording is personally more satisfying. I realise I'm getting off the point here but Hill can be outrageous in his use of gratuitous trill-ing - check out the first disc of his "Music by the young J S Bach" series on Hanssler. So, I guess I prefer restraint to overstatement - however, it's important for the music to breathe and I find the Pinnock matches most of my expectations for this music.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 20, 2002):
[To Jim Morrison] Well put. Yeah, I suppose I am saying that: Pinnock doesn't make much use of the harpsichord's standard techniques of expressivity. (Agogic subtlety, slight voice-staggering, rhythmic suppleness within groups of notes that are notated evenly, ....) His basic touch sounds too heavy to me, too: as if he's hitting the keys too hard rather than pressing them, letting the instrument sing, letting the instrument and its tone guide some of the interpretation.

And some pianists (and organists) do sound like that when they play harpsichord. It's a different instrument and takes more adjustment of one's playing technique than one might think at first thought!

I consider Pinnock a good conductor.... I don't know if he was a pianist or not.

Ron Shaffer wrote (September 20, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks Brad for such a detailed analysis and comparison. I've only heard the Pinnock rendition, but now I've ordered the Parmentier from tower.com .... it's on "special order", I hope they can find it. The cost was right ... $14.99 if I remember right. I can't wait to hear your preferred performer after reading all your comparisons. I appreciate the fact that control is necessary with Bach .... but your descriptions of Parmentier make it sound like a "must have". Thanks again!

 

Bach's Partitas

Aheesong wrote (November 2, 2002):
I have been asked to say whether the movements of Bach's Partitas are written in the old style or the new style. May I have some tips on how to search on this matter please? Secondly, I did not succeed to find out exactly the date in which Partita No. 2 was written. May we suppose that it was at Cothen when Bach had more free time?

Thanks.

 

Piano Partitas: All That Glitters Is Not Gould

Pete Blue wrote (November 14, 2002):
A couple of months ago there was a thread on this List anent the Partitas, in particular the recorded versions for piano, that I hope I can revive just long enough to add a name that I don't believe has ever been mentioned on this List -- Carl Seemann. That's because at Tower I finally found his classic set of the Partitas on the Orfeo label. They date back to the 1960's but the sound is fine, if a little closely miked, as studio recordings tended to be then. Seemann was a staple of early DGG Archive (later DG Archiv). His many recordings of Mozart may be OOP but they're still competitive; ditto his collaborations with violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan.

Gould has always been my standard for excellence in the Partitas (the Gould Standard?). They never fail to excite, and I've listened to them often over the decades. There have been a number of worthy rivals (we're really blessed here): Tureck, Hewitt, Zhu Xiao-Mei, Rübsam, blah-blah-blah. Overall I put Seemann alongside or even above them.

I wish Don Satz had done one of hia movement-by-movement surveys, but lacking that, my initial test is the toccata-like Gigue of the 1st Partita: if it sounds like great music and not just great piano-playing it's a winner.

My piano prize goes to Seemann, surprisingly, over Gould. There is a tinge of showoff in the Gould. You have to liTHROUGH the perfect, clipped phrasing and punchy dynamics to get to the music. Seemann's playing just flows, with the same wonderfully even fingerwork and technical ease as Gould but a spirituality and simplicity that conveys to me the impression Seemann has a trunk line to Bach.

Any reaction?

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 16, 2007):
To Pete Blue] Interesting, I hadn't heard of Carl Seemann.

Somebody named B. Johnson has written a comparison of Gould, Schiff, and Seemann at Amazon.com
His sentence: 'His personal approach is gentle, but of German discipline and restraint, without ever becoming overbearingly "Teutonic"' suggests to me that I might find Seemann's set too tame for my preferences; true?

And I don't think that a "wonderfully even fingerwork and technical ease," while very attractive, is necessarily a virtue in this music; recall my contrast of Pinnock and Parmentier at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/7619

Meanwhile, your paragraph (below) from which that's drawn would describe (for me) the Zhu Xiao-Mei recording very well...that simple and easy flow.

So, how does Seemann sound compared more closely with Zhu? What would this set add to a shelf that already (on piano) has Zhu, Gould, Schiff, Martins, Rübsam, along with Browning and Sokolov in #2, and Kapell in #4, and the younger Gould in #5 on CBC?

And are there online samples anywhere? I checked the usual eight or nine places with no luck....

Pete Blue wrote (November 14, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Sound samples of Carl Seemann's recording of the Partitas can be found at www.jpc.de. That is always the first place I go for sound samples of classical CDs released in Europe.

 

Continue on Part 3

Partitas BWV 825-830: Details
Recordings:
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Comparative Review:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
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Partitas - P. Anderszewski [McElhearn] | Partitas - P. Anderszewski [Satz] | Partitas - L. Corolan & I. Kipnis | Partitas - F. Kempf | Partitas - E. Feller 1 | Partitas - E. Parmentier | Partitas - A. Rangell | GV & Partitas - K. Richter | Partitas - B. Roberts | Partitas - S. Ross | Partitas - C. Rousset | Partitas - S. Sager | Partitas - C. Sheppard [Morrison] | Partitas - C. Sheppard [Satz] | Partitas - J.L. Steuerman | Partitas - M. Suzuki [McElhearn] | Partitas - M. Suzuki [Henderson] | Partitas - C. Tiberghien | Partitas - R. Troeger | Partitas - B. Verlet | Partitas - K. Weiss | Rübsam - Part 2 | Rübsam - Part 3
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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 Part 4 | MD: Partita No. 1 in B flat major BWV 825
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Partitas - P. Anderszewski | Partitas - V. Dondysh | Partitas - played R. Goode
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Partitas - R. Kirkpatrick | Partitas - A. Rangell | Partitas - S. Ross | Partitas - A. Schiff | Partitas - M. Suzuki | Partitas - B. Verlet | Partitas - K. Weiss | Partitas - R. Woolley | Partitas - Z. Xiao-Mei

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Last update: July 12, 2010 21:04:20