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CLASSICAL  November 2006

CLASSICAL November 2006

Subject:

Five Hours of Bach

From:

Donald Satz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 29 Nov 2006 03:51:39 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

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   Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
        Works for Solo Keyboard

Disc 1:
Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
Disc 2:
Italian Concerto in F major, BWV 971
French Overture in B minor, BWV 831
4 Duets, BWV 802-805
Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903
Disc 3:
Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BWV 825
Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826
Partita No. 6 in E minor, BWV 830
Disc 4:
Partita No. 3 in A minor, BWV 827
Partita No. 4 in D major, BWV 828
Partita No. 5 in G major, BWV 829

Christophe Rousset (harpsichord)
Recorded 1992-1995
Reissued May 2006
Decca 475 7079 [4cds - 76:44 + 67:39 + 76:19 + 77:52]

Rating: Off the Charts

In the United States, Christophe Rousset's Decca recordings of Bach
keyboard works have had a spotty history - here today, gone tomorrow.
Fortunately, Decca has now repackaged these recordings into a four-disc
set that sells for only $7.00 per disc.  However, it's best not to assume
that the set will indefinitely be on the U.S.  market; in other words,
snap it up before it's yanked.

Rousset's Decca/Bach recordings are essential for the Bach serious
record collector and anyone else who prizes idiomatic interpretations
of some of Bach's most compelling and glorious keyboard works.  Rousset's
style is generally informed by sharp contours, buoyant rhythms, brilliant
phrasing, excellent detail of musical lines, poignant slow movements and
very speedy and even wild fast movements.  Overall, his interpretations
crackle with energy.  Another trait I love is that Rousset is often
youthful and exuberant while at the same time expressing a full life's
experience of regret and disappointment.  In this regard, his performances
remind me of excellent interpretations of Schumann's Kinderszenen where
each note displays the maturity of adulthood as well the wonder of a
child.

Disc 1 contains a very aggressive Goldberg Variations, and I love
every minute of it.  The performance is brash and never dawdles; it has
great rhythmic bounce and a compelling musical flow.  Although youthful
exuberance is in abundance, there is a hardened element that creates a
gripping aesthetic contrast.  I think of this version as "Bach The Bounty
Hunter".  He busts through all obstacles and always quickly gets his
man.

Rousset plays most of the variations with great rhythmic vitality
and exhilaration, making this reviewer want to bounce off the walls.
Although Rousset's tempos are significantly faster than the norm, he
never allows them to diminish emotional content.  In the Aria and those
variations not conducive to an exhilarating presentation, Rousset is
equally compelling.  Listen to the pristine beauty and longing of the
Aria, the strong contrast between remorse and salvation in Variation 9,
the subtle negativity of Variation 11, the bitter/sweet nature of Variation
13, the pathos in Variation 15, the stunning rays of light in Variation
21, the spiritual side of Variation 24 and the bleak terrains of Variation
25 referred to as the "Black Pearl".  Yes, Rousset connects on all
cylinders, and I have no problem considering his Goldbergs one of the
elite versions on the market.

Disc 2 covers four masterful Bach works, and Rousset applies the same
magnificent qualities found in his Goldberg Variations.  Each performance
is in the top echelon with special notice going to the Italian Concerto's
exquisite dialogue in the Andante and the visceral excitement of the
Presto.  Rousset delivers the most propulsive French Overture on record,
his 1st Duet is the most austere and commanding I've ever heard, and his
interpretation of the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue revels in the work's
macabre elements.

Discs 3 and 4 contain Bach's 6 Partitas for Keyboard, a rich vein of
architectural and emotional variety.  In these works I feel that Rousset
places greater priority on structural clarity with some dampening of
interest in visceral thrills (although there are still many instances
of exhilaration).  The advantages of clarity reveal that Rousset is both
youthful/exuberant and experienced/melancholy in each note and chord he
plays.  I find the contrasts illuminating and riveting, the result being
one of the most rewarding sets on either piano or harpsichord.

As for sound considerations, I am quite pleased that these Decca
recordings are much less reverberant than Rousset's recent outings on
the Ambroisie label.  The Decca sound has plenty of body and depth, and
it allows Rousset's sharp phrasing and pin-point articulation to grab
hold of the listener.

Don's Conclusions: Except for those allergic to the harpsichord, the
Rousset set is an indispensable part of the Bach keyboard enthusiast's
music library.  These are tremendously vibrant interpretations full of
contrast and enlightening detail, so sit yourself down and listen to
five wonderful hours of Bach.

Don Satz
[log in to unmask]

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