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

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: SoundCircus
WORKS: French Suites, BWV 812, 813, 814, 815, 816, 817
PERFORMER: Joanna MacGregor (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SC 901 Reissue (1993)
One of the more regrettable casualties from the demise of Collins a few years back was Joanna MacGregor’s marvellously eclectic discography. It is heartening, then, to find three of her recordings reappearing on her own SoundCircus label, and I hope other titles are to follow. None of these recordings threatens to be a leader in its field, but they are all full of engaging and enjoyable musicianship and will certainly not disappoint MacGregor’s many admirers. Admittedly, the packaging is far too stylish to be encumbered with anything as useful as booklet notes, providing instead a diagram of bourrée steps for the Bach, a list of poker hands for Scarlatti (!) and acidic quotations about Satie’s music.

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MacGregor’s amiable readings of Bach’s French Suites and the selection of Scarlatti sonatas are unlikely to please the more monkish adherents of appropriate stylistic traits. MacGregor does not astound the listener like Glenn Gould, in either his eccentricity nor his flashes of genius, so her cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof approach to the E flat Sarabande bemuses rather than exasperates and her sprightly G major Gavotte delights without taking the breath away. The F minor Scarlatti Sonata (K481) is evocative of an opera aria, wonderfully utilising the full sonority of the piano, but elsewhere MacGregor does not quite conjure up the fireworks of rival versions.

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Satie fares best of all, with MacGregor forthright and witty in Sports et divertissements and full of bonhomie in Je te veux. Christopher Dingle