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French Suites BWV 812-817

Masaaki Suzuki (Harpsichord)

Bachís French Suites from Suzuki


J.S. Bach: French Suites

French Suites BWV 812-817 [16:36, 15:40, 17:18, 14:46, 21:15, 18:41]
Suite in A minor, BWV 818a [15:38]
Suite in E flat major, BWV 819a [19:47]

Masaaki Suzuki (Harpsichord)


Oct 1999 [815-817], May 2001 [812]; Feb 2002 [818-819]

2-CD / TT: 140:08

Recorded at Kobe Shoin Women's University, Japan.
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Donald Satz wrote (March 29, 2004):
Comparison Version: Cates/Music & Arts, Moroney/Virgin Classics

Performer - Masaaki Suzuki has attained quite an enviable position as a Bach performing artist of the highest order both as conductor and keyboard performer. His on-going series of the Bach Cantatas is among the best on record, and he also continues to record the Bach solo keyboard works. I should also mention his recording of Bach's German Organ Mass which has a host of transcendent performances.

Harpsichord - Constructed by Willem Kroesbergen in 1982 after an enlarged 2 manual Ruckers.

Outstanding Features - Harpsichord sounds gorgeous and acoustic is perfect. Rhythms are supple, trills/ornamentation are enticing, elegance and the singing line are emphasized.

Problematic Features - Changes in tempo and dynamics are infrequent and narrow in range. Contours are very smooth in the Allemandes. Worst, intensity is sorely lacking and most damaging to the Sarabandes. These performances sometimes give off a facile quality.

Reference to Suzuki's disc of German Organ Mass - Anyone who might know Suzuki only by his recording of Bach's German Organ Mass wouldn't believe that this is the same artist who recorded the French Suites. In the German Organ Mass, Suzuki is all sharp angles, severity, and boldness. You won't get much of that in his set of the French Suites. Of course, I am not suggesting that Suzuki should play the French Suites in the same manner as the Organ Mass; I am suggesting that he goes too far in the opposite direction.

Suite No. 1 - The Allemande is a little cloying with Suzuki's overly smooth and steady lines; switch to David Cates and the music comes alive with changes in tempo and dynamics that give off the air of improvisation. Suzuki's Sarabande is surface-bound compared to Cates's probing account However, Menuets I & II are given a delicious flow by Suzuki, and he does sharpen up in the concluding Gugue.

Suite No. 2 - Suzuki remains consistent with his approach to the previous Suite. His Allemande and Sarabande are not as interesting or insightful as those from Cates or Moroney. Much more favorable are the Air and Gigue which get fiery readings at full speed.

Suite No. 3 - I'd just like to mention the Sarabande that is likely the most emotionally rich piece in the French Suites. Bach takes us from deep remorse to acceptance of our humanity, but Suzuki won't have any part with remorse - getting 'down and dirty' doesn't fit into his schematic of these Suites.

Suite No. 4 - This Suite's Menuet is where Suzuki takes a detour from his mainstream interpretations. Cates and most other artists give the music a slow pace and contemplative demeanor, but Suzuki is fast and jaunty. It certainly has its appeal and changes the nature of the music. Personally, I prefer the contemplation. The sequence of Gavotte - Air - Menuet - Gigue needs a Menuet that strongly contrasts with the three exuberant pieces.

Suite No. 5 - From my perspective, Suzuki does best in Bach's gigues, and the one from Suite No. 5 matches a fantastic performance and the most towering gigue Bach ever wrote. The music is a hotbed of energy, activity, and brilliance; Suzuki plays it for all it's worth. Further, he turns on the macabre element of the second section to great effect. It's a prime example of the controlled wildness that Suzuki offers so frequently in his recording of the German Organ Mass.

Suite No. 6 - I should also give special mention to Suzuki's way with the Courantes. In each of the Suites, he emphasizes the music's propulsion and exuberance. These features reach their peak in the E major Courante. Suzuki is off to the races and loving every moment.

Suites in A minor and E flat major - It isn't unusual to find these two Suites included in sets of the French Suites. They help fill up the disc space and complement the styles used in the French Suites. As is customary on record, two alternate Allemandes of the E flat Major Suite are presented; the one Bach wrote first is harmonically daring, while the replacement is rather straight-laced. Suzuki plays the two Suites excellently, exhibiting more incisive phrasing than in the French Suites.

Summary - Suzuki's set of the French Suites and their companion pieces has much to offer in terms of exuberance, the all-important singing line, elegance, and beauty of form. However, the readings are not exploratory nor do they stress the music's detail or emotional depth. More than anything else, I think that 'Bach is Beautiful' is Suzuki's calling card. For many Bach enthusiasts, the set should be highly rewarding. Personally, I remain wedded to the Cates and Moroney recordings.


French Suites BWV 812-817: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | French - Brookshire | French - Cates [Satz] | French - Cates [Schwartz] | French - Dart | French - Payne | French - Rannou [McElhearn] | Freanch - Rannou [Satz] | Rübsam - Part 1 | French - Suzuki

Masaaki Suzuki: Short Biography | Bach Collegoim Japan
Recordings of Vocal Works:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Recordings of Instrumental Works
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Suzuki - Vol. 2 | Suzuki - Vol. 5 | Suzuki - Vol. 8 | Suzuki - Vol. 9 | Suzuki - Vol. 10 | Suzuki - Vol. 11 | Suzuki - Vol. 12 | Suzuki - Vol. 13 | Suzuki - Vol. 14 | Suzuki - Vol. 15 | Suzuki - Vol. 16 | Suzuki - Vol. 17 | Suzuki - Vol. 18 | Suzuki - Vol. 19 | Suzuki - Vol. 20 | Suzuki - Vol. 21 | Suzuki - Vol. 22 | Suzuki - Vol. 23 | Suzuki - Vol. 24 | Suzuki - Vol. 25 | Suzuki - Vol. 26 | Suzuki - Vol.. 27 | Suzuki - Vol. 28 | Suzuki - Vol. 29 | Suzuki - Vol. 30 | Suzuki - Vol. 31 | Suzuki Secular - Vol. 1
Other Vocal Works:
BWV 232 - Suzuki | BWV 243 - Suzuki | BWV 244 - Suzuki | BWV 245 - Suzuki | BWV 248 - Suzuki
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bachís Clavier-Ubung III from Massaki Suzuki | Bach Harpsichord Discs from Hill and Suzuki | Bachís French Suites from Suzuki | Review: Partitas by Suzuki [McElhearn] | Suzukiís Partitas [Henderson] | Suzukiís Goldberg Variations
Table of recordings by BWV Number

Instrumental Works: Recordings, Reviews & Discussions - Main Page | Order of Discussion
Recording Reviews of Instrumental Works: Main Page | Organ | Keyboard | Solo Instrumental | Chamber | Orchestral, MO, AOF
Performers of Instrumental Works: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


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