Bach: French Suites, BWV 812-817

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: French Suites, BWV 812-817
PERFORMER: Ton Koopman (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-94805-2 DDD
Ton Koopman’s harpsichord playing has neither the aristocratic poise of a Leonhardt nor the rock-secure rhythmic grip of a Pinnock. But it does have characteristics all of its own which often amount to a quirkiness that can be rather endearing. In his recording of Bach’s French Suites, for example, Koopman signs off some movements with an extra short staccato cadence (Gavotte, No. 5), while his ornamentation can assume a truly Baroque extravagance (Sarabande, No. 5).

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The slow movements lend themselves particularly to embellishment and in his hands take on a convincingly improvisatory air. This is Koopman at his most inventive: even if his ideas occasionally raise an eyebrow, they give his musicianship a welcome personal stamp. The Allemande of No. 6 is strongly shaped, with teasing ornaments cheekily thrown in. Other faster movements (Gigue, No. 5) have the more traditional virtues of keen articulation and a powerful rhythmic drive.

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Koopman plays a 1978 copy of a Ruckers by Willem Kroesbergen. It is a responsive, clear-toned instrument, recorded closely enough to capture subtleties of touch, without sounding unduly oppressive. Barry Millington