WORKS: Partita in B flat, BWV 825; English Suite No. 3 in G minor, BWV 808; French Suite No. 2 in C minor, BWV 813
PERFORMER: Maria João Pires (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 447 894-2 DDD
Only the staunchest purist could be disappointed with this new recording by Maria João Pires. It’s refreshing to hear a performer so unafraid of drawing on the full potential of the piano in repertoire which is increasingly becoming the realm of harpsichordists. Her readings, with their wide palette of colour and dynamic contrast, are Romantically expressive, and her rhythmic freedom turns the sarabandes into fluid improvisations; but Pires never forgets or obscures Bach’s counterpoint, and her warmth and musical personality shine through, marred only by an occasional lumpiness in the denser textures.
No such criticism can be aimed at Angela Hewitt, who plays with a lightness and lucidity that at times verge on the fay. She pays lip service to the sort of instrument Bach himself might have played, with judicious use of the sustaining pedal and fewer pianistic expressive devices. If she has a less mature musical personality than Pires, she nonetheless plays with a freshness and candour that are sure to please, and which is particularly well-suited to the 18 Little Preludes – works designed as teaching pieces for beginners. What’s more, her two discs are very generously filled. Kate Bolton