Bach: English Suites

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Music & Arts
WORKS: English Suites
PERFORMER: Colin Tilney (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-777 DDD (distrib. Harmonia Mundi)
Christophe Rousset has made his recordings of the Partitas on a perfectly preserved harpsichord of 1751 by Henri Hemsch, and its sound has been beautifully captured by L’Oiseau-Lyre. His readings are refined and impeccably controlled, with crisp fingerwork and incisive rhythms (though the rather jerky treatment of the opening chords in the G major Partita is curious). Unlike some of his rivals, Rousset resists the temptation to take the faster movements at breakneck speed, though at times he sacrifices the dance-like character of the music (the Gigues of the first and third suites are a case in point). It’s a pity, too, that he chooses not to ornament or vary the repeats. Some decoration may have helped in the Sarabandes in particular, where occasionally the sense of line and direction is lost. Still, he has much to offer, and this is certainly one of the best versions of the Partitas on the harpsichord.

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Like Rousset, Colin Tilney’s tempi are quite restrained, and he emphasises the intimacy of the English Suites rather than their virtuoso character. There is, perhaps, a slight lack of variety within individual suites, especially the First, but the playing is always sensitive, and Tilney’s subtle ornamentation is most effective. Kate Bolton