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JS Bach: French Suite No. 5 (Bruce Liu)

Bruce Liu (piano) (DG)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

JS Bach
French Suite No. 5
Bruce Liu (piano)
Deutsche Grammophon 486 3138 (digital only)   12:44 mins

Of Bach’s three collections of suites for keyboard, the so-called French Suites from the early 1720s are the slightest. While they lack the grandeur and virtuosity of the English Suites and Partitas with their extended preludes often adopting the style of the Italian concerto or the French overture, they have more subtle charms and an unassuming melodic lightness. The Fifth is enormously attractive with a wonderfully poised ‘Sarabande’ and a winning concluding ‘Gigue’ that has long been one of the composer’s most popular keyboard movements.

Bruce Liu provides considered, beautifully shaped performances. While making full use of the contrasts and phasing opportunities available on the piano, he also nods in the direction of the harpsichord with appropriately spread chords and occasional delays between bottom and top notes. His treatment of first section repeats, particularly in the ‘Allemande’ and ‘Sarabande’, is brilliantly imaginative and it’s a pity he fails to repeat the second sections. His ornamentation is graceful, though some might quarrel with a certain lack of consistency. His performance of the concluding ‘Gigue’ is thoroughly pianistic, but also thoroughly enjoyable. With one or two reservations, there is a vast amount to enjoy in Liu’s carefully conceived and superbly played reading.

Jan Smaczny