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Partitas BWV 825-830

Richard Troeger (Harpsichord)

Bachs Partitas for Harpsichord from Richard Troeger


J.S. Bach: The Six Partitas (Bach on Clavichord Vol. 1)

Partitas BWV 825-830 [18:29, 21:00, 19:00, 32:19, 20:47, 29:48]

Richard Troeger (Clavichord)



2-CD / TT:

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Donald Satz wrote (April 17, 2001):
Richard Troeger is currently in the process of recording all of Bach's keyboard works on the clavichord for the Lyrichord label. He has already recorded the inventions/Sinfonias and the Toccatas for Harpsichord. Reviews have been excellent, and Troeger appears well on his way to making his mark as a major Bach performing artist. The catalog number of the Partitas is LEMS-8038. I'll be comparing Troeger's set as I go along mainly to the best of the Leonhardt and Pinnock versions; now and then I'll throw in other great performances.

Partita No. 1 in B flat major - Troeger's swaying and noble Praeludium has great forward momentum and is the equal of Leonhardt's performance. Troeger, like Maggie Cole on Virgin, is quite fast in the Allemande, almost two minutes faster than Leonhardt. Troeger is very exciting but not as much as Cole; Leonhardt's slow and inward reading presents an entirely different approach from Troeger which I like even more than Cole. The Corrente has joy, content, and excitement as its foundations.
Troeger provides as fine and effervescent a performance as any I've heard. The dignified and tender Sarabande is in great hands with Troeger providing a heart-felt performance which strikes the music's core. Happiness leaps out of the speakers in Troeger's Menuet I, but Menuet II finds Troeger slightly too demonstrative and no match for Leonhardt's elegant Menuet II. Troeger gets back to superb playing with the concluding Gigue which he fully invests with infectious good cheer.

My early impressions are that Troeger's set might end up being one of the best available, in the same league as the Leonhardt. Troeger adopts faster tempos than Leonhardt, but I find them quite similar in superbly conveying the essence of Bach's music. The only blot on Troeger's B flat major is a foreceful Menuet II; I am most impressed with the Praeludium where Troeger provides a sense of inevitability that's irresistable.

Partita No. 2 in C minor - Although the B flat major's first movement Praeludium is outstanding music, the C minor's Sinfonia is even better. It's in three parts: dotted rhythm introduction, lyrical and urgent Andante, and an exciting Fugue. Leonhardt's version was about the best around, but Troeger surpasses him largely based on his magical introduction which is the epitome of majesty and depth. Troeger's Andante is filled with longing and foreboding, and the Fugue is a thrilling ride.

Troeger's Allemande is loaded with superbly phrased longing and urgency just as is Leonhardt's; Troeger's cascading notes are very pleasureable. The Courante finds Troeger again placing great priority on urgency; that's also Leonhardt's approach. The gorgeous Sarabande also benefits from longing and urgency; Troeger fully provides them.The last two movements, an exciting and frisky Rondeaux followed by a wild Capriccio, are magical in the hands of Trevor Pinnock. Troeger doesn't quite reach Pinnock's exalted level but he consistently finds the playfulness of the Rondeaux and the excitement provided by the Capriccio.

The first four movements of the C minor Partita are largely about urgency and longing. Leonhardt's peformances are exceptional because he recognizes this and executes superbly; Troeger does the same and gives the best reading of the Sinfonia's introduction on record. Although not as fine as Pinnock in the last two movements, Troeger equals the Leonhardt interpretations.

Partita No. 3 in A minor - The opening Fantasia is two part invention which Rosalyn Tureck does expertly; Troeger is close to her level with an exciting reading. The Allemande is highly elegant and tinged with regret; Troeger captures the mood just right and equals Leonhardt. Speaking of Leonhardt, his Corrente has a wealth of power and thrills, particularly in the second theme. It's a revelatory reading which Troeger can't quite match. He is certainly exciting but his faster tempo is not conducive to the cumulative collecting of great amounts of energy in the second theme; nobody rivals Leonhardt in this respect. Leonhardt is also better than Troeger in the aristocratic and tender Sarabande, fully displaying both qualities. Troeger is a little short on tenderness.

The next two movements, the Burlesca and the Scherzo, are made for power, thrills, and perpetual motion; Pinnock is the king of these two movements. Although very enjoyable, Troeger can't match Pinnock's power, and this is where I need to say a few words about the clavichord. The instrument is ideal to express longing, melancholy, urgency, mystery, playfulness, tenderness, and a host of other emotions. I do not consider it close to ideal in expressing power, and I keep noticing that Troeger can't equal the best alternative versions when power is a prime ingredient of the music. This is an element I also have been noticing in Troeger's disc of the Toccatas where power is more pervasive than in the Partitas.

The A minor Gigue is what I refer to as the "All Hell Breaks Loose" gigue. Tureck, who seems to deconstruct the established geological order, and the slower Leonhardt are my favorite versions. I find that Troeger is close but that his clavichord just can't provide that last ounce of power I desire.

Although I've carped quite a bit about Troeger's clavichord, his performances in the A minor are very good. He is too fast in the Corrente and his Sarabande lacks tenderness, but these are problems which only stand out when compared to the best alternative versions. Through three Partitas, Troeger's readings have, overall, been as excellent as Leonhardt's.

Partita No. 4 in D major - This is probably Bach's most loved harpsichord partita and it deserves that recognition. Leonhardt often misses the boat in the D major, but Pinnock and Tureck rise to the occasion and also have to contend with Glenn Gould's revelatory D major which is one of his greatest achievements on record. The D major is loaded with opportunities to express heroism and ceremony; Gould is magical these areas. This will be a great test of Troeger's ability to reach the top levels of performance and interpretation.

The D major begins with a French-style Overture having a double dotted Grave followed by three part Fugue. Tureck, Gould, and Pinnock give outstanding performances. Tureck is slow, probing, and uses a stunning staccato. Gould's majesty is supreme, and Pinnock is perpetual motion in the fugue. Does Troeger match up to any of this? Not really. The Grave and Fugue need much strength and as much as Troeger tries to supply it, his instrument won't allow it. As an example, in the Grave Troeger plays the lower register notes as powerfully as possible to provide the requisite strength; however, it just makes those low notes stick out like a sore thumb. The quickly decaying sound of the instrument is also disadvantageous.

A wonderful Allemande follows which is life-affiriming and gorgeous. I prefer a strong projection of life's rewards and find Tureck and Gould magical in their interpretations. Troeger is way below their level and quite a come-down. First, the bass notes which are the foundation of the Allemande are too weakly projected; it sounds as if Troeger is doing his best to elicit some strength from them but to little avail. Second, and this has nothing to do with the instrument used, Troeger sounds to me a little awkard and not sure how to handle the music. He pulls the rhythm around occasionally and is not very fluid. If we think of the conversation between the right and left hands, there isn't much of one. If Troeger keepsgoing at this rate, he will deconstruct before the end of the Partita.

Fortunately, Troeger gets back on track with an outstanding Courante which is highly lyrical and exciting; it rivals the Gould recording. Gould's Aria is also exceptionally heroic. Troeger plays it very well but can't match Gould's swagger. As wonderfully as Gould has played the D major up to this point, he totally blows away the competition in the urgent and elegant Sarabande. Gould also blows Troeger away as well. To Troeger's credit, his reading has much urgency, but it doesn't convey as wide a range of emotional variety as the Gould interpretation. Troeger's Menuet is loaded with a great blend of joy and urgency; it's as good as any other I've heard. The concluding Gigue gets a dynamic performance from Troeger fully equal to the superb performance from Pinnock.

Overall, Troeger's Partita in D major is highly worthy and goes out strongly with a great Menuet and Gigue. However, the Overture displays some weakness in Troeger's clavichord, and Troeger has nobody to blame but himself for an unimpressive Allemande. So, Troeger does not reach the heights that Gould climbs but does offer some valuable insights and very pleasureable readings.

Partita No. 5 in G major - G major is usually a happy key and Bach certainly lets loose with some rollicking good times. I listened to the excellent Tureck and Pinnock versions in addition to the Troeger. Both Tureck and Pinnock are still great listening experieces which would be hard to equal. Aside from the Tempo di Minuetta, Troeger delivers great readings. His Corrente and Sarabande are second to none. The concluding Gigue is a superb double fugue with the themes turned on their heads. With Pinnock, the inversions sound like the bowels of the Earth are grinding their way upward. With Troeger, that effect which is made by the bass notes, just sounds annoying. That's a shame since Troeger is outstanding in the first section of the Gigue. Overall, this is another fine set of performances by Troeger again let done some by his instrument.

I need to relate something else about Troeger's sound. The G major is the first time I used my headphones in the set. I was very surprised to notice that there's a metallic reverberation from the clavichord which is noticeable after some strongly played notes. It's not a pleasant noise, and I'm also surprised that it has not been mentioned in any of the reviews I have read.

Partita No. 6 in E minor - This Partita is well served by Troeger except for the opening Toccata. He is altogether too fast and presents somewhat of a caricature of the music. On the other hand, Troeger's Sarabande is a revelation to me that I won't forget; it even surpasses Leonhardt's exceptional performance.

I have some mixed feelings about Troeger's set of the Partitas. After the first two Partitas, I was thinking that the set could be outstanding. But in the third Partita, I noticed a lack of tenderness in the Sarabande, too fast a tempo in the Corrente, and some deficiency of power from the clavichord mainly centered in the lower registers. In the fourth Partita, Troeger has trouble with the Overture and Allemande which are two of the most rewarding movements in the entire set. With the fifth Partita, bass lines can be problematic and I notice an undersireable noise when using my headphones. In the last Partita, Troeger ruins the Toccata which is another wonderful piece of music.

Personally, I would have preferred if Troeger had used a harpsichord for a few of the movements such as the D major Allemande and the G major Gigue. Too jarring a contrast? Perhaps so, but a poor match of instrument and music puts a performance in a hole before it even begins.

I end up recommending the Troeger set, warts and all. Even with the power, bass, and reverberation problems and also with three non-competitive performances of the best of Bach, Troeger shows an artistry which is very impressive. His Sarabandes are particularly distinctive and rewarding. Also, there's the flip-side to the use of the clavichord. It's a wonderful instrument for many moods that take shape in the Partitas.

Don's Conclusions: Recommended with caution. Pinnock, Gould, Leonhardt, and Tureck are still the preferred sets. If you buy Troeger, remember that the recordings are headphone challenged.


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

Richard Troeger: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bachs Partitas for Harpsichord from Richard Troeger | Bach's Toccatas for Harpsichord from Watchorn & Troeger (3 Parts)

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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