Bach: French Suites, BWV 812, 813, 814, 815, 816, 817

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WORKS: French Suites, BWV 812, 813, 814, 815, 816, 817
PERFORMER: Andrei Gavrilov (piano)
Gavrilov’s accounts of these wonderful pieces are by turns unsentimental and heavily romanticised. Although his debt to Glenn Gould is unmistakable, there are times when his rather heavy touch, combined with liberal use of the sustaining pedal, lend the playing a feeling of laboriousness. In the concluding Gigue of the C minor Suite, for instance, Gavrilov’s mordents are cumbersome rather than ornamental; and it is not easy to understand why he takes the Trio section in the fourth movement of the B minor Suite at less than half the speed of the surrounding Minuet.


Gavrilov does, however, bring a welcome lightness of touch to some of the more sprightly dances by playing them staccato – sometimes in contradiction of Bach’s own phrase markings. He is at his best when he plays with simplicity, as he generally does in the sarabandes; but there is more enjoyment to be had from András Schiff’s eloquent accounts of this music on a Decca double album which also finds room for the Italian Concerto and the French Overture. Kate Bolton