Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Works for Solo Keyboard
Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826
Partita No. 3 in A minor, BWV 827
Partita No. 4 in D major, BWV 828
Cedric Tiberghien, piano
Recorded Teldex Studio Berlin, August 2004
Released October 2005
Harmonia Mundi HMC 901869 [77:40]
Comparisons: Argerich/DG (no. 2 only), Gould/Sony, Hewitt/Hyperion,
Rangell/Dorian, Rubsam/Naxos, Tureck/Philips
Summary: A fine disc, but.....
Cedric Tiberghien is a young French pianist who has already recorded
Beethoven, Grieg, Schumann, and Debussy for Harmonia Mundi. Tiberghien's
Bach is my first acquaintance with his playing, and he certainly has
much to offer. His virtuosity and dexterity are never in doubt as he
handles Bach's fast movements such as the Courantes and Gigues with
aplomb and great energy. Tiberghien also displays an expert balance
between upper and lower voices; both his detail and clarity are quite
impressive. In addition, he well connects with Bach's lyricism, rhythmic
flow, and overall sound world.
However, the disc also reveals two major problems. One concerns the
Bach Sarabande which is a standard movement in each of the Suites. This
movement is where keyboard players need to put their 'hearts and souls'
into music that most possesses great poignancy and alternates between
spiritual enrichment and a landscape of bleakness. Playing it at a quick
pace tends to trivialize the musical arguments, but playing slower than
the norm can also weaken their impact.
Let's use the example of the Sarabande from the Suite in D major.
In most recorded performances, this Sarabande takes up from 8 to 9
minutes; Tiberghien extends the music to about 11 1/2 minutes. For such
a slow pace to be effective, the performance must be more probing and
emotionally rich than faster versions and/or offer alternative musical
arguments through the use of articulation, dynamics, and accenting;
pianists such as Rosalyn Tureck and Wolfgang Rubsam are experts in this
area. Unfortunately, Tiberghien merely plays the piece at a slower
speed, resulting in music that exhibits much inertia and saps the piece
of its stateliness and progression. Since he essentially does nothing
with the additional 2 1/2 minutes, it becomes wasted time and disc space.
Of course, this impacts the entire movement and makes it difficult to
The second problem involves a soundstage that 'swims with the fishes'.
Overly wet and reverberant, this type of sound might not be very damaging
for performances that are strong on horizontal expressiveness, but it
is contrary to the concentrated playing style of Tiberghien. Essentially,
the playing and soundstage are at odds, robbing the recorded performances
of their bite and inevitability.
Don's Conclusions: Given the wrong sonics and unimpressive Sarabandes,
I cannot recommend this premium-priced Bach disc from Cedric Tiberghien.
It does have its virtues, but the recorded competition is overwhelming.
If you like probing accounts, look no further than the Tureck set on a
2-cd Philips set. If maximum creativity is your preference, Rubsam's
interpretations should delight and illuminate your perception of this
music; Rangell's performances are also illuminating but not as distinctive
as Rubsam's. Then there's the magnificent set from Glenn Gould and the
affectionate readings of Angela Hewitt. Tiberghien does not measure up
to these alternatives.
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