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Partitas BWV 825-830

Igor Kipnis, Lucy Carolan (Hapsichord)

Bach’s Partitas from Kipnis and Carolan


J.S. Bach: Solo Partitas Nos. 1, 2 & 4 [K-4]

Partitas No. 1 BWV 825 [19:07], No. 2 BWV 826 [20:32], No. 4 BWV 828 [34:11]

Igor Kipnis (Harpsichord)

EMI / Seraphim Classics


CD / TT: 73:50

Review: Bach’s Partitas from Kipnis and Carolan
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J.S. Bach: Solo Partitas Nos. 3, 5 & 6 [K-5]

Partitas No. 3 BWV 827 [19:58], No. 5 BWV 827 [21:31], No. 6 BWV 830 [31:26]

Igor Kipnis (Harpsichord)

EMI / Seraphim Classics


CD / TT: 72:55

Review: Bach’s Partitas from Kipnis and Carolan
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J. S. Bach: The Six Partitas, BWV 825-830 [K-1]

Partitas BWV 825-830 [18:48, 21:34, 20:11, 32:41, 21:35, 30:54]

Lucy Carolan (Harpsichord)

Signum Records UK

May, Jun 1998

2-CD / TT: 146:07

Recorded at St. George's Brandon Hill, Bristol, England.
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Donald Satz wrote (December 26, 2000):
Quite a few months ago, EMI released through Seraphim two single CD's of Bach's Partitas for Harpsichord performed in the 1970's by Igor Kipnis who is a near legend as a harpsichordist. The Signum label recently issued a 2-CD set of the Partitas from Lucy Carolan on harpsichord. The Kipnis recordings have enjoyed a fine reputation over the years, and Carolan's set has received excellent reviews in the periodicals. For comparison purposes, I am using the Leonhardt set on DHM which I consider the best available on harpsichord and Pinnock's recent set for Hanssler which isn't far behind Leonhardt. The specifics on the Kipnis and Carolan recordings are:

[1] [2] Igor Kipnis - EMI/Seraphim 73700 & 74007 (1977) 147 Minutes.
[3] Lucy Carolan - Signum 012 (1999) 146 Minutes.

Partita No. 1 - Lucy Carolan plays well but less effectively than the other three. She exhibits some mannerisms: hesitations in the Praeludium and Allemande, choppy playing in the Corrente, lack of delicacy in Menuet II, and a tendency to not be incisive enough keep her performances from being excellent. Kipnis does as well as Pinnock. The one aspect of the Kipnis style I don't appreciate is his predilection for short trills which most bothered me in the Allemande and the Corrente which was also too slow. Other than those two considerations, Kipnis is excellent. He has a light touch which is pleasureable, and he always gets to the core of the music. Leonhardt's performances are exceptional.

Partita No. 2 - Problems continue to beset Lucy Carolan. Her fugue from the Sinfonia isn't close to the thrilling listening experience provided by Leonhardt, her Courante has fussy elements, and the Rondeaux and Capriccio find Carolan somewhat awkward in her phrasing. On the plus side, her Andante from the Sinfonia and her Sarabande are beautifully delivered - I'm noting that those are slow pieces. Kipnis is just a little better than Carolan. Most interesting concerning his Partita No. 2 Sarabande is that he must have been playing based on a different manuscript source, because some of the notes are different - those differences all work against Kipnis. Also, his fugue is at Carolan's level, and the Rondeaux finds Kipnis lacking some forward momentum. Both Pinnock and Leonhardt are significantly better.

Partita No. 3 - I find Kipnis much less effective in the A minor than the previous two partitas. In general, his relatively light harpsichord sound does not succeed well in this work. The Gigue, one of Bach's best, is particularly disappointing in the hands of Kipnis; his lyricism and generation of excitement are on the low side. In the Corrente, he gets a little trill happy in the first theme repeat. Lucy Carolan does very well, although not close to Pinnock whose A minor is exceptional. Carolan's Fantasia is superb, and the Gigue is excellent.

At the half-way point, neither Leonhardt nor Pinnock face a serious challenge from Kipnis or Carolan. Perhaps most important, at no point have Kipnis or Carolan made any of Bach's music into a magical listening experiece.

Partita No. 4 - Easily my favorite Partita of the set. Carolan's Overture is excellent; the Grave is heroic and the Fugue exciting. Her Allemande is fine and well meets the competition. The Courante is great though there are moments when she loses a little momentum; her Sarabande is exquisite. The Aria finds Carolan a little choppy with hesitations; her flow is not good and it hurts the performance. The Menuet from Carolan is appropriately heroic and uplifiting. The Gigue is one of Bach's most exciting pieces of music, and Carolan fully delivers the power and excitement; her second subject is sinister and outstanding. The best music often brings out the best in an artist, and I feel that Carolan has responded in this manner to the D major Partita. She does not match Gould - nobody does, but she is as excellent as Leonhardt and Pinnock.

I find the Kipnis Overture problematic; his Grave has fussy ornamentation, and the Fugue is too slow for strong impact. The Courante also has fussy ornamentation in the first theme repeat, and the piece is just played too slowly for maximum excitement. Although his Allemande and Sanrabande are very well played, Kipnis skips notes in both first themes, although not when they are repeated; again, I'm assuming the use of a diffeent manuscript source. Regardless, it's not the best presentation of these pieces. The Menuet finds Kipnis again displaying some fussy and extensive ornamentation.

The Gigue, excitement personified, is something less in the hands of Kipnis. Hesitations and suspect ornamentation detract from could have been a thrilling listening experience. Overall, the D major Partita is much better served by Carolan, Leonhardt, and Pinnock.

Partita No. 5 - This may not be as majestic a work as Partita No. 5, but it is great music of optimism and joy of life. Pinnock's version is exceptional except that he sounds rushed in the Passepied; Leonhardt's Passepied is outstanding. Kipnis continues with his "missing notes" approach in the Allemande's first theme and second theme as well to the music's detriment. His Praembulum and Corrente are excellent. The Sarabande is much better than Pinnock's and rivals the Tureck on Philips. The remainder of his G major performance is mighty fine. Overall, although the Kipnis version is not quite as exceptional as the Pinnock, it is better than Leonhardt's and a great interpretation.

Carolan's Praembulum is fast and exciting, the Allemande very tender and exquisite, the Corrente loaded with motion and excitement, the Sarabande fully vested with its beauty/depth/delicacy, the Tempo di Minuetto treated as a pearl, and the Gigue's themes deliciously turned on their heads. Only the Passepied is not superbly played - some lack of momentum. I have to rate Carolan's G major as highly as Pinnock's versio; it's an outstanding accomplishment even better than her D major.

Partita No. 6 - Both Carolan and Kipnis deliver very good performances. Carolan's excellence is best displayed in her wonderful Allemande and fast paced Corrente. The Kipnis Toccata is very heroic and espressive; I've not heard better.


After getting through Partita No. 3, I wasn't looking forward to the remainder of the review. Both Carolan and Kipnis were well below Pinnock and Leonhardt in my estimation. However, Carolan picked up considerably in the D major, matched the best versions in the G major, and concluded with a fine E minor Partita. Although the Kipnis D major was no winner, he performed splendidly in the last two Partitas.

Overall, Carolan does best with the slower music. In the faster pieces, she sometimes loses the pulse of the music and retards forward momentum. I give her set a fairly strong recommendation with the caution that Carolan does not really hit her stride consistently until the D major Partita.

I end up being a little disappointed with the Kipnis set for the following reasons: he decides to omit notes with some frequency, particularly in first themes. Regardless of the accuracy of the approach, I usually feel that damage is done to the music's structure. Annoying trills and fussy/overdone ornamentation, particularly in repeats, are not rare in the Kipnis set. The bass response has a "thud" quality to it which is not attractive. I add this all up and conclude that the set rates no more than a qualified recommendation. For what it's worth, every review I have read has been highly complimentary of this reissue with a typical comment being, "It's so good to welcome back this treasureable recording". The American Record Guide reviewer mentioned the "missing notes" issue, but had no problems with it; he also considered the "over the top" features advantageous. One thing that reduces the issue of the quality of the interpretation is that each of the two discs costs just a little more than a Naxos CD. I'll be keeping and playing my copy with the hope that my response gets more favorable over time. There's much to enjoy in the Kipnis set, but I'd buy Lucy Carolan first.


Partitas BWV 825 830:
Comparative Review:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
Reviews of Individual Recordings:
Partitas - P. Anderszewski [McElhearn] | Partitas - P. Anderszewski [Satz] | Partitas - L. Corolan & I. Kipnis | Partitas - E. Feller 1 | Partitas - E. Parmentier | Partitas - A. Rangell | GV & Partitas - K. Richter | Partitas - B. Roberts | Partitas - S. Ross | Partitas - S. Sager | Partitas - C. Sheppard | 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

Igor Kipnis: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach’s Partitas from Kipnis and Carolan

Lucy Carolan: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach’s Partitas from Kipnis and Carolan

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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