COMPOSERS: JS Bach,Mozart
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach, Mozart
WORKS: JS Bach: French Suites; Mozart: Suite in C, K339 & Gigue in G, K574
PERFORMER: Peter Hill (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DCD 34166
Less dense than their ‘English’ companions BWV806-811 – and more amenable to amateur fingers – Bach’s so-called French Suites are probably the better known of the two sets. Like the near-contemporary Two and Three-Part Inventions they were doubtless intended to give son Wilhelm Friedemann’s keyboard studies a hot-housing boost, and early versions of the first five found their way into that endearing domestic repository, the Anna Magdalena Notebook. At times their surface simplicity invites Artur Schnabel’s famous aside apropos Mozart: ‘too easy for children, too difficult for adults’. But Peter Hill never underestimates their challenge, and there’s a confiding wisdom sustaining his latest Bachian foray. Trademark unshowy integrity, too, articulated through a silky translucent tone and captured in an agreeably intimate recording.
Hill is at his most convincing in the major-key suites, and if the G major’s Allemande could yield a little more, the Courante is as snappy as a Scandinavian crispbread, the Gavotte deliciously dapper (as is its E major sibling), and the Gigue – which wears its fugal learning lightly – oozes playful refinement. Hill’s fastidiously crafted Loure, on the other hand, obeys the letter of the notes without capturing their free spirit; and the D minor Suite’s similarly ‘French’ Gigue, here measured and over-didactic, sounds stiff alongside the briskly purposeful András Schiff, or Masaaki Suzuki whose harpsichord imparts a courtly Gallic swagger. By way of inspired postscript, Mozart tries on Bach’s wig for size in a quasi neo-Baroque Suite which, shot through with creative homage rather than pastiche, still has Wolfgang’s fingerprints all over it.