Bach: French Suite in A minor, BWV 818a; French Suite in A, BWV 832; French Suite in E flat, BWV 819; French Suite in F minor, BWV 823; Minuets, BWV 841, 842, 843

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: French Suite in A minor, BWV 818a; French Suite in A, BWV 832; French Suite in E flat, BWV 819; French Suite in F minor, BWV 823; Minuets, BWV 841, 842, 843
PERFORMER: Olivier Baumont (harpsichord, clavichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-80224-2
Bach à la française has two strong attractions. First of all, the programme consists mainly of seldom heard pieces, and secondly they are very well played by French harpsichordist Olivier Baumont. I have not always enjoyed Baumont’s playing, finding it too self-consciously mannered. There is no hint of that in this well thought out recital, executed with vitality and technical finesse. Among its several carefully considered features is the assembly of those Suites for which more than one solution presents itself to the performer. A case in point is Baumont’s inclusion of the Prelude (BWV 815a) at the head of the Suite in E flat (BWV 819a), a happy decision. Baumont includes four such suites in his programme – these are not the well-known French Suites, by the way – as well as three Menuets and four Preludes from Bach’s anthology for his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann (c1720); these latter pieces are early versions of preludes which later appeared in Book 1 of the ‘48’. Last comes Bach’s beautiful, delicately ornamented chorale ‘Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten’ from the 1725 music book for his second wife, Anna Magdalena. All these assorted pieces are played on a clavichord. All-in-all a pleasing recital, though the appellation ‘à la française’ should not be taken too strictly. After all, harpsichordist Rinaldo Alessandrini included the F minor Suite, also chosen by Baumont, in an Opus 111 disc subtitled A la maniera italiana, reviewed last month. Nicholas Anderson

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