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Robert Hill, Masaaki Suzuki (Harpsichord)

Bach Harpsichord Discs from Hill and Suzuki

K-6

Bach: Concerto, Fantasia & Fugue - Keyboard Works From The Weimar Period (Edition Bachakademie Vol. 105)

Suite in A minor BWV 818a [14:19]
Prelude & Fugue in A minor BWV 894 [10:09]
Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue in D minor BWV 903 [12:25]
Fantasia & Fugue in A minor BWV 904 [9:23]
Fantasia in A minor BWV 922 [6:14]

Robert Hill (Harpsichord)

Hänssler

Oct 1999

CD / TT: 52:27

Recorded at Kath. Pfarrkirche Oberried/Breisgau, Germany.
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K-5

J.S. Bach: Fantasies & Fugues

Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903 [9:54]
Fantasia and Fugue in A minor, BWV 904 [7:55]
Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 906 [4:40]
Fantasia in G minor, BWV 917 [2:02]
Fantasia über ein rondo in C minor, BWV 918 [4:41]
Prelude (Fantasia) in C minor, BWV 921 [2:45]
Prelude (Fantasia) in A minor, BWV 922 [6:12]
Prelude in B minor, BWV 923 [2:14]
Fantasia and Fugue in A minor, BWV 944 [6:10]
Fugue on a theme by Albinoni in A major, BWV 950 [5:49]
Fugue on a theme by Albinoni in B minor, BWV 951 [7:35]
Capriccio on the Departure of a Beloved Brother, BWV 992 [10:54]
Capriccio in honour of Johann Christoph Bach, BWV 993 [6:16]

Masaaki Suzuki (Harpsichord)

BIS

Nov 1998

CD / TT: 77:07

Recorded at the Kobe Shoin Women's University Chapel, Japan.
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Donald Satz wrote (December 21, 2000):
Robert Hill and Masaaki Suzuki have recently recorded single discs of Bach keyboard works:

Robert Hill - Keyboard Works From The Weimar Period. Contents include the Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue in D minor BWV 903, Fantasia in A minor BWV 922, Fantasia & Fugue in A minor BWV 904, Suite in A minor BWV 818a, and Prelude & Fugue in A minor BWV 894 - Hänssler 92105 (52 minutes).

Masaaki Suzuki - Fantasias & Fugues. Contents include the Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue in D minor BWV 903, Fantasia & Fugue in A minor 904, Fantasia in C minor BWV 906, Fantasia in G minor BWV 917, Fantasia in C minor BWV 918, Praeludium in C minor BWV 921, Fantasia in A minor BWV 922, Fantasia & Fugue in A minor BWV 944, Fugue in A major BWV 950, Praeludium & Fugue in B minor BWV 923/951, Capriccio in honour of Johann Christoph Bach BWV 993, and the Capriccio on the Departure of his Most Beloved Brother BWV 992 - BIS 1037 (77 minutes).

Although Hill's disc has substantially less music, I don't consider that an issue since the Hänssler sells for less than premium price. Also, three of the five works on the Hill recording are also on Suzuki's - BWV 903, 922, and 904. For Hill's BWV 818a, my comparison is Hogwood's version on his French Suites set on Decca. For BWV 894, I compared Hill to Angela Hewitt's piano version on her French Suites set on Hyperion.

Hill holds up very well to Hogwood and Hewitt. Comparing Hill to Hogwood in BWV 818a, the immediate and only major difference is that Hill's harpsichord sound is very 'busy' and not as crisp as Hogwood; the Hill acoustic is rather 'swimmy'. However, Hill's sound is more than acceptable and his performance is as excellent as Hogwood's.

The Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue, BWV 903, has enjoyed many fine recordings. One of my traditional favorites comes from Igor Kipnis on Arabesque; he invests the work with a demonic quality which I love every time I play his interpretation. There is an element of joy in the Fugue which Kipnis gives little attention to, but his austere approach is wonderful for this music. His recorded sound is as sharp as a needle, perfectly fitting his interpretation of the Fantasia. Suzuki is the one who really brings out the joy in the Fugue; his reading is as fine as Kipnis. But, Suzuki's Fantasia is much too fast and strikes me as a messy performance. Hill does not approach the excellence of the other two artists; although enjoyable, at no point does Hill reach the heights.

In the Fantasia & Fugue BWV 904, I prefer Suzuki over Hill or Kipnis, basically because of the majesty and heroism of his Fantasia. But, the other two versions are mighty fine.

Where Hill really shines is in the Fantasia BWV 922. As traditionally perceived, a fantasia should convey an improvisatory interpretation. Hill perfectly meets that standard with a highly detailed, poetic, and interesting performance. Listen to Suzuki and you'll likely notice that it's a tough 6 minutes to sit through - boring, quick, and forgettable. Kipnis, in his Arabesque disc, uses the clavichord. Regardless, Hill brings this music to life better than I've ever heard in the past.

Overall, Hill's new disc is a fine one. Three of the works are excellently performed, while BWV 922 is a magical performance. The only reservation is BWV 903 which does not have much to offer in comparison to Kipnis and Suzuki. If you are looking for a great BWV 922, this disc is essential. If you don't care much for BWV 922, Hill's reading might well change your mind.

Turning now to the Suzuki disc, I've already noted that his BWV 903 has a poor Fantasia and wonderful Fugue, outstanding BWV 904, and barely acceptable BWV 922. Concerning the remaining works on his disc, most are also on the Kipnis Arabesque recording. For the Capriccio BWV 992, I used Banowetz on Naxos and Aldwinkle on MCA Classics for comparison. From the three works that Suzuki and Hill share in common, Suzuki appears to do much better when speed and forward momentum are strong considerations. In the more improvisatory and inward sections of these three works, Suzuki tends to be heavy and rather unmusical. Now to the remaining Suzuki performances.

In BWV 906, Suzuki goes for strong momentum and excitement in the Fantasia; he does not play the Fugue which does not exist in some manuscript sources. Overall, I prefer his Fantasia to the reading by Kipnis which is more deliberate. In BWV 917, Suzuki again stresses speed and momentum, while Kipnis is more delicate, thought-provoking, and slower; I consider both versions excellent. In BWV 918, Suzuki gets a little heavy-handed to the detriment of the listener; Kipnis steers a moderate course between austerity and playfulness which I definitely prefer.

More Suzuki/Kipnis comparisons - In the BWV 922 Fantasia, Kipnis uses the clavichord in a delicate and detailed performance; again, Suzuki is somewhat heavy and less interesting. In the Fantasia & Fugue BWV 944, the Fantasia is very short and the Fugue quite substantial and virtuosic. Suzuki has his pulse on this music as does Kipnis.

In the BWV 992 Capriccio, Suzuki does a fine job and compares well to Banowetz and outshines Aldwinkle. For the few remaining pieces on the Suzuki disc, he performs excellently with some occasional heavy playing. There is a lot of music on Suzuki's recording.

Don's Conclusion: If pressed to choose, I'd go with Suzuki over Hill. I think that Suzuki's selection of music is better than Hill's, and he generally reaches superb levels more frequently. The heavy quality I have mentioned isa reservation, but that just insures that the disc is not an essential purchase. Hill's reservation is a BWV 903 of no great distinction. I should relate that the American Record Guide reviewer thinks that Hill's BWV 903 is "wonderful and fresh". I'm not sure what he means by "fresh", but I fail to detect any special qualities in the performance. Of paramount importance, either recording should give much reward and constitute a fine addition to your library. I'm sure that my most vivid memories of Suzuki's disc will be his BWV 903 Fugue; for Hill's disc it will be his outstanding BWV 922. I bought both recordings at the same buying session - the next move is yours.

 

Robert Hill: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
“Bach as Teacher” from Robert Hill | Bach Harpsichord Discs from Hill and Suzuki
Discussions of Non Vocal Works:
Lute Works - played by Robert Hill (Lute-Harpsichord)

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
Cantatas:
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:
Bach’s Clavier-Ubung III from Massaki Suzuki | Bach Harpsichord Discs from Hill and Suzuki | Bach’s French Suites from Suzuki | Review: Partitas by Suzuki [McElhearn] | Suzuki’s Partitas [Henderson] | Suzuki’s Goldberg Variations
Table of recordings by BWV Number

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Last update: ýOctober 18, 2006 ý23:48:56