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Partitas BWV 825-830

Bach’s Partitas for Harpsichord from Pinnock, Part 5

Continue from Part 4

Donald Satz wrote (September 4, 2000):
Partita No. 5 in G major, BWV 829 - Schepkin, Tureck, Pinnock, Leonhardt, and Hewitt are joined for this partita with Goode on Nonesuch and Horszowski on Arbiter. Bach generally writes joyful and upbeat music in the key of G major, and the Partita No. 5 is no exception. The work opens with a radiant Praeambulum which has plummeting chords, strong modulations, and intensely "galloping" passages of high drama. In spirit, the movement has a quirky playfulness with the intensity entering at just the right intervals.

Horszowski and Schepkin are not competitive with the other versions. I would refer to the performances as "rough but not neccessarily ready". Horszowski has trouble with the fast passages - some smudges and lack of continuity. Schepkin races like the wind, but I get the perception that he's so concerned with speed that the interpretation conveys technical properties only. Concerning the Horszowski, unlike his Partita No. 2 on the same recording, No. 5 is in mono-sound and isn't bad at all - the consistent buzz in No. 2 is now gone. Hewitt is better, but her performance has a heavy sound to it. Further, her extremes of volume are not appreciated; sometimes she's too soft, other times it's on to chord banging.

Leonhardt, Goode, and Tureck capture the joy, quirkly playfulness, and intensity of the movement excellently. Pinnock is best of all; his interpretation radiates joy throughout, and it is irresistable. Also, his is the most exciting performance.

The Allemande is hopeful and subtle music with dotted rhythms interacting with triplets. Although not poor performances, three have problems. Horszowski's pacing is not consistent, Hewitt conveys to me only a surface interpretation of little subtlety, and Leonhardt skips the first theme's repeat; I don't appreciate this excellent theme being played only once. Further, Pinnock does better than Leonhardt without any consideration of repeats. Goode is very good although a little on the light side. Pinnock, Schepkin, and Tureck are excellent. Schepkin and Tureck provide very different readings. Schepkin is freely poetic and glides from one passage to another; his counterpoint is superb, and he delivers the most beautiful performance. Tureck is more of a "straight arrow", aristocratic and providing a great deal of variety within a tight structure. Pinnock is quite slow with a halting pace at times; it works well as he brings out a wide array of colors and feelings.

Next is an Italian Corrente which is very happy and energetic music. The music also has a fairly delicate nature which two performers don't handle well - Hewitt is much too heavy and misses the delicacy; Goode is so delicate that his reading takes on a "precious" quality that I don't appreciate.

Tureck is quite interesting with a staccato approach. Horszowski is very energetic and has the basics well covered. Leonhardt provides a fine and incisive reading. Schepkin could have been outstanding, but he gets trill-happy in the first theme's repeat and then leaves out a significant section of music. Pinnock is again the best; his interpretation is exciting, loaded with happiness, perfectly delicate, and also has that perpetual motion feature that Pinnock often provides. Overall, I seem to be enjoying Pinnock increasingly in the survey. I initially found him a little lacking in depth, but except for the first two Partitas, he's been as good or better than the alternative sets.

The Sarabande is gorgeous music and quite French in style: considerable double-dotting and ornamentation. Some parts remind me of Rameau. There is also a deep satisfaction with life that I feel is in this Sarbande, and Tureck's the one who provides it fully. I listened to her performance about 10 times in a row, never tiring of its life-affirming qualities presented in such a subtle and relaxed manner. It just lifts my spirits every time.

Again, Schepkin would be outstanding except for his handling of the first theme's repeat. This time, instead of being trill-happy, he moves to a higher register. He's certainly not the only artist who makes this type of decision, but I generally think that it is detrimental to the music. But, I don't want to get overly negative because Schepkin and the other six performers deliver beautiful interpretations that just do not impact me as much as Tureck's.

A Tempo di Minuetta follows in 3/4 time. The music is witty, quirky, playful, and loaded with cross-rhythms. All the versions are highly effective, but Goode's is the one which has the most variety and lyricism - it is a lovely and interesting interpretation which is highly poetic.

Next is the Passepied, a French Court dance. Bach's music has an irresistable swagger to it and is very playful as well. Schepkin and Horszowski are fast with little swagger; Schepkin is choppy and Horszowski's sound is suddenly poor with many notes being internally attacked by static. Neither version is competitive.

The Passepied is well served by Pinnock, Hewitt, and Goode. Their swagger is fine, and they are playful as well. However, they do present a few little problems: Pinnock sounds rushed at times, Goode is a little choppy, and Hewitt's spectrum of sound volume is too wide for my tastes. Tureck and Leonhardt deiver everything advantageous from the other versions with one important addition; they create an exciting build-up and anticipation for the climaxes. Tureck's staccato is highly effective, and Leonhardt's very slow tempo is loaded with hesitations that are delightful once acclimated to his approach.

Nobody wrote better gigues than Bach, and the one which concludes Partita No. 5 is a dandy - a fast paced, exciting, and lyrical double fugue with themes turned on their head. Hewitt, Goode, and Leonhardt do well, but the excitement is sporadic. The remaining versions are great listening. Pinnock is perpetual motion, Horszowski has superb pacing although he does smudge a passage or two, Schpekin is like lightning and delivers a virtuoso performance, and Tureck has the most exciting theme inversions.

Summary for Partita No. 5:

Pinnock and Tureck give the best performances of this bright and joyful work. Hewitt and Horszowski exhibit some significant problems. Hewitt's interpretive decisions are often not to my liking, and Horszowski frequently has technical challenges. The other versions are highly rewarding.

A few words about Goode's recording of Partitas 2, 4, and 5. Although he is not best in any of the three works, he is always competitive and often illuminating. His most significant problem is some weak projection, but his recording should greatly appeal to those who like Bach performed in a highly poetic manner with minimal eccentricities. I do think that Bach suits Goode better than Beethoven; Goode is hardly a tempestuous pianist.

For Partita No. 6, it's back to only the five full sets. I have Pinnock and Tureck in a dead heat for best set with Leonhardt close behind.


Continue on Part 6

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

Trevor Pinnock: Short Biography | English Concert | Recordings of Vocal Works | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings: Bach’s Partitas for Harpsichord from Pinnock:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Bach Harpsichord with Pinnock

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