LABELS: Decca Double Decca
WORKS: French Suites, BWV 812, 813, 814, 815, 816, 817, 818, 819
PERFORMER: Christopher Hogwood (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 466 736-2 Reissue (1984, 1985)
The French Suites are among the most tuneful and easy to play of Bach’s keyboard works, perhaps reflecting their likely origin as practice pieces for Anna Magdalena. Bach certainly used them for teaching and copies made by various students survive. However, since Bach constantly revised his work, there are numerous discrepancies between these copies; some even have additional movements. Christopher Hogwood, for example, includes the Second Suite’s Menuet II, found in later manuscripts, but neither the Praeludium nor the Gavotte II that Bach temporarily inserted in the Fourth Suite.
Hogwood offers relaxed, engaging performances that match any currently available on harpsichord, though his playing can be rather prim at times. He also offers the bonus of two further suites, BWV 818a and 819. But for those who don’t mind Bach on the piano, my benchmark is Angela Hewitt, who conveys the dancelike character of these pieces with a wonderfully deft, lyrical touch. Graham Lock