Jory Vinikour performs Partitas Nos 1-6 by JS Bach

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COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: Sono Luminus
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: Partitas Nos 1-6
PERFORMER: Jory Vinikour (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: DSL-92209

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The title page of Bach’s Partitas Nos 1-6, Op. 1 proposes a ‘keyboard practice… composed for music lovers to refresh their spirits’. But for players it’s hard won ‘refreshment’. As Bach’s first biographer Forkel observed in 1802, ‘anyone who learned to play some of the pieces well could make his way in the world’. Jory Vinikour, the latest to accept their challenges on disc, joins a rich stable of fellow harpsichordists including Christophe Rousset, Andreas Staier and Ton Koopman. His instrument couldn’t be more apposite: a copy of a single manual harpsichord built in Hannover some six years after the Partitas were published in 1731, but upscaled to two keyboards. He takes full advantage of its range of colours to vary repeats (adding discreet extra embellishments) but his playing is always about the music and never self-advertising – indeed his sobriety and no-nonsense directness recalls his sometime teacher Huguette Dreyfus.

The B flat Praeludium emerges a touch earnestly while the scintillating Gigue that concludes the first Partita also reveals a furrowed brow; but as the journey unfolds, reservations fall away. Where tempos seem ‘cautious’ there are palpable compensatory rewards – the D major Gigue, for example, champions exemplary coherence over virtuosic brio. Yet Vinikour is by no means a slave to caution. In the A minor Partita he follows a gutsy ‘Burlesca’ with a Scherzo given a thoroughly muscular workout, before ripping through the Gigue with gusto. An utterly absorbing set that discloses something new at each encounter.

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Paul Riley