WORKS: Keyboard Partitas, Vol. 1: No. 1 in B flat, BWV 825; No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826; No. 3 in A minor, BWV 827; No. 4 in D, BWV 828
PERFORMER: Sergey Schepkin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 024-108
A fellow critic recently reviewed another piano performance of Bach’s keyboard partitas which he found so Romantically self-indulgent that it had him hitting the whisky bottle. This version, I fear, will leave him reaching for the valium. Sergey Schepkin will be a name new to many readers, but to say that Glenn Gould and Ton Koopman are his two greatest heroes gives some idea of his musical personality. Certainly, Schepkin can match either of them in eccentricity, though his playing tends to have a more Romantic sheen, drawing a velvet warmth from the piano in contrast to Gould’s percussive sound.
The most striking aspect of Schepkin’s performances is his liberal, at times even excessive, ornamentation – something which will infuriate many listeners, but which Schepkin argues has firm foundation in Bach sources. On the whole, I found his playing most persuasive: such is his grasp of Bach’s architecture that the ornaments serve to enhance rather than detract from it, lending an almost improvisatory feel to these performances. But beware: this playing is not for the faint-hearted – you’ll either love it or loathe it. Kate Bolton