Bach: Partita No. 1 in B flat, BWV 825; Partita No. 3 in A minor, BWV 827; Partita No. 6 in E minor, BWV 830

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LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Partita No. 1 in B flat, BWV 825; Partita No. 3 in A minor, BWV 827; Partita No. 6 in E minor, BWV 830
PERFORMER: Piotr Anderszewski (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45526 2
Piotr Anderszewski initially came to my attention via his solo Bach release on Harmonia Mundi featuring the Fifth French Suite and French Overture. The Sixth, Third, and First Partitas that make up Anderszewski’s first Bach outing for Virgin largely confirm his positive attributes in this repertoire, while at the same time drawing attention to certain mannerisms lurking beneath the surface of his extremely accomplished pianism. Anderszewski achieves ravishing legato effects in the sarabandes’ long, vocally informed lines with little, if any, use of the sustaining pedal, although much of his soft playing and tapered phrase endings end up diverting your attention to the piano rather than the music itself. Embellishments and ornaments in the repeats are as imaginative and well-considered here as those of András Schiff, and, like Glenn Gould, Anderszewski goes so far as to take the B flat Partita’s menuets up an octave. His hard-nosed, driven approach to the E minor and B flat major gigues bring their respective partitas to relatively unsettled conclusions; by contrast, the A minor Gigue receives a more shapely, lilting reading. Many pianists treat the rhetorical sequences in the Toccata of the E minor Partita more freely in relation to the fugal episodes; Anderszewski, by contrast, integrates the sections by imposing one basic (and unusually brisk) tempo. There’s no doubt that Anderszewski is a serious artist whose work will give Bach lovers much food for thought, even if they’ll ultimately gain a more cogent sense of the Partitas’ dance origins through Angela Hewitt’s equally intelligent but less self-conscious performances. Jed Distler