Bach: English Suite No. 2 in A minor, BWV 807; Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826; Partita No. 5 in C, BWV 829; Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543 (transcr. Liszt)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Arbiter
WORKS: English Suite No. 2 in A minor, BWV 807; Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826; Partita No. 5 in C, BWV 829; Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543 (transcr. Liszt)
PERFORMER: Mieczyslaw Horszowski (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 113 (distr. Harmonia Mundi)
This recording will be most enjoyed by the serious collector – but in this bracket it is one not to be missed. It is a compilation of different concert performances given in a Tuscan church and in Rome: the Fifth Partita is from 1958 and the rest from 1983 to 1986, when Horszowski was already over 90. Far from showing any signs of frailty, this is Bach playing of indomitable, incandescent purity and beauty. Horszowski uses little or no pedal and is never sentimental: the spirit is austere yet full of humanity, wisdom and vigour, ranging from the grandeur of the Liszt transcription to the gentle wit of the Second Partita’s Rondeau. None of it is note-perfect: there are occasional stumbles and unsteadinesses, but this doesn’t matter in such a context, at least not to me. Sound quality varies dramatically between the recordings: the English Suite and the Second Partita are clear and resonant, while the Fifth Partita sounds distant and woolly. But the disc does capture the exceptional intensity and magic of Horszowski’s recitals in his last years. Jessica Duchen

Advertisement