WORKS: Partitas, BWV 825-30
PERFORMER: Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 92.115
Unless I have missed something, this recording of Bach’s six harpsichord partitas is the first major solo recital from Trevor Pinnock for several years. Bach himself published these wonderfully varied and instantly engaging suites piecemeal, between 1726 and 1730, before bringing them together as the first part of his Clavierübung in the following year. If Bach’s first biographer, Forkel, is to be believed, they made an immediate and deep impression on Bach’s contemporaries causing, as he recorded, quite a stir in the musical world on account of an excellence never before encountered in the sphere of solo harpsichord repertoire. Bach’s own declared aim on the title page was to enchant the spirit of music lovers, and no ear since can possibly have denied the brilliant success of his endeavour.
Pinnock’s playing reveals an intuitive feeling for phrase structures and a disdain for anything that smacks of expressive contrivance or exaggerated, self-conscious rhythmic caprice. So far, so good, but I did feel on occasion that there was too much emphasis on uninterrupted fluency and not enough attention paid to those subtle inflections which draw out the beguiling poetry of the music. In this matter, Lucy Carolan (Signum) and Andreas Staier (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi) are, perhaps, more alluring. But two features of Pinnock’s playing, his interpretative spontaneity and his strong technique, are likely to win many friends, for they are qualities which burnish one side of the coin – Bach’s keyboard virtuosity – better than most. The recorded sound is clear but the somewhat cavernous acoustic lacks intimacy. Nicholas Anderson