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Partitas BWV 825-830

Edward Parmentier (Harpsichord)

Bach's Partitas for Harpsichord from Edward Parmentier


J.S. Bach: The Six Partitas

Partitas BWV 825-830 [18:31, 19:58, 19:05, 30:14, 18:43, 33:20]

Edward Parmentier (Harpsichord)


Jun 1991

2-CD / TT: 140:38

Recorded at Bethel United Church of Christ, Manchester, Michigan, USA.
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Donald Satz wrote (March 9, 2001):
Edward Parmentier has primarily been recording for the Wildboar label over the past few years. Reviews of his discs of Bach including the Partitas, Toccatas, and English Suites have been highly complimentary, and I know many folks who would second that opinion. So, I finally got around to obtaining Parmentier's set of the Partitas for Harpsichord which was initially released in 1992; time does fly. It is a two-disc set, and the catalog number is WLBR 9101. I'll be comparing Parmentier to the best versions I have of every movement in the set, harpsichord and/or piano.

Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BWV 825 - Parmentier plays excellently and with a knack for Bach's idiom. I would have liked stronger accenting in the Praeludium, and Parmentier could have provided greater depth in Menuet II. Also, he takes a fast tempo in the Allemande; if you want fast and exciting, there's no reason to look further than Pires who is thrilling and like lightning. I am being rather picky. The fact is that I find Parmientier's B flat major a fine and mainstream achievement. His Praeludium is noble and beautiful, the Allemande exciting, the Corrente joyful, the Sarabande comforting, Menuet I has great bounce, and the Gigue's music comes at me from all directions. Overall, I still prefer Leonhardt, but Parmentier stands tall next to Maggie Cole and Trevor Pinnock.

Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826 - This is a wonderful Partita; every movement is a masterpiece of construction and enlightenment. I have found Leonhardt and Tureck outstanding in the first four movements with Pinnock taking over in the Rondeaux and Capriccio. Parmentier holds up well to this high level of performance. The Andante of the Sinfonia is a little choppy, and the Sarabande might be slightly too quick for maximum feeling. Other than that, it's an exceptional performance. Best of all is the Sinfonia's fugue where the excitement of Parmentier's reading leaps off the written page; it's the most thrilling performance I've ever heard.

Partita No. 3 in A minor, BWV 827 - Another excellent set of performances from Parmentier. He is fully equal or better than any other version I have excepting for the Sarabande; as in the C minor, he is quick with reduced expressiveness. The highlight is the thrilling second theme of the Corrente where Parmentier even outshines Leonhardt.

Partita No. 4 in D major, BWV 828 - I feel rather critical concerning Parmentier's performances of the D major which is my favorite partita of the set. It has a stature and ceremony of supreme impact. Perhaps most advantageous is its thrilling and perpetual motion Gigue. Gould is my benchmark for the D major; Tureck, Kahane, and Pinnock are three excellent versions. Parmentier doesn't hold up well in this company except for his Menuet and Gigue which are exceptional. As expected, Parmentier provides another quick tempo Sarabande which doesn't dig deeply into the music's core. Unexpectedly, his Overture and Allemande are also somewhat surface-bound and riddled with little hesitations and some choppiness. They are enjoyable performances, but they pale next to the likes of Gould, Tureck, and Pinnock. The D major's Overture, Allemande, and Sarabande are among the finest movements in the set, and Parmentier's surface readings are a major negative.

Partita No. 5 in G major - Pinnock and Tureck have been my favorite G major performances, although I think that Richard Goode on Nonesuch delivers the best Tempo di Minuetta I've heard. Parmentier's Praeambulum is exciting with intense "galloping" passages. His Allemande is fully vested with hope and subtlety. The Italian Corrente is interpreted in a joyous and delicate manner. Parmentier's Sarabande is exceptional and gorgeous; the French nature of the music shines through completely. The Passepied has great swagger, and Parmentier's Gigue is the equal of Pinnock's and Tureck's. Only his Tempo di Minuetta displays any pedestrian qualities. Overall, Parmentier is highly distinguished in the G major, and his Sarabande and Gigue are outstanding.

Partita No. 6 in E minor - This masterful work begins with a Toccata in prelude-fugue-prelude sequence. Tureck's is a transcendent performance; Parmentier doesn't match her, particularly in the fugue, but his version is as excellent as the Kipnis on Seraphim. Parmentier's Allemande is full of longing and vulnerability as is the superb Leonhardt performance on DHM. I don't think very well of most performances of the Corrente, but Hewitt is a different league with powerful syncopation and voice interplay; Parmentier is of average enjoyment. The short Air finds a perfect interpreter in Pinnock who provides great momentum, bounce, and playfulness; Parmentier isn't nearly as expressive as Pinnock. The Sarabande is in excellent hands with Parmentier; his improvisatory reading is infectious. Parmentier is also wonderful in the Tempo di Gavotte; his flow is perfect. He's also no slouch in the relatively harsh Gigue where he blends severity and optimism with a strong dance element as well as the superb Leonhardt reading.

Conclusions: It's very easy to recommend Parmentier's set of the Partitas for Harpsichord. He clearly is in touch with the Bach idiom, presents not one poor performance of any movement, and is most rewarding in the more optimistic and joyous music. I do have two reservations which stop me from giving the set the highest recommendation. First, Parmentier plays three of the Sarabandes on the fast side with reduced fervor. The second and more significant failing concerns the D major Partita's Overture and Allemande where Parmentier's technique is not very appealing and his depth of feeling is a little short. If those two movements are very important to you, I'd suggest sampling them first before deciding whether to buy the disc.

Concerning comparisons with other harpsichord sets, I continue to feel that Leonhardt's is the best available. Parmentier does hold up well to the fine Pinnock set, and I find him better than Lucy Carolan on Signum who I reviewed favorably a few weeks ago. An excellent sign of my satisfaction with Parmentier is that I will be investigating his other Bach/Wildboar recordings. Parmentier is a significant Bach artist and deserves the recognition he has been receiving in print.


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

Edward Parmentier: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach's Partitas for Harpsichord from Edward Parmentier | Edward Parmentier Plays Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier | Edward Parmentier’s Toccatas

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