> JS Bach - English Suites vol. 2 [KM]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
English Suites vol. 2
Suite No. 4 In F Major, BWV 809
Suite No. 5 In E Minor, BWV 810
Suite No. 6 In D Minor, BWV 811
Glenn Gould, piano
Rec: December 1974; October 1975; May 1976, Eatonís Auditorium, Toronto, Canada.


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This disc contains the last three English Suites, which are part of one of Bachís three sets of suites (the others are the partitas and the French suites). While the first two suites were recorded mostly in 1971, the third suite as well as the suites on this disc were recorded in 1974 and 1976.

Gould continues in the same style as for the first three suites, combining vigour and subtlety. He opens the fourth suite with an energetic treatment of the prelude, then goes into an almost pointillist allemande. The sarabande, as for most of these suites, remains the central movement, where he shifts down a few gears, and discourses with the notes, slowly, tenderly. The menuet I features some of Gouldís most attractive ornamentation, and the second menuet is equally dainty and French-sounding.

The fugal prelude of the fifth suite gives Gould a chance to change his tone. He is no longer forcing the music from his fingers energetically as in most of the other preludes, but sculpting the fugal material with broad strokes. He approaches the sarabande differently as well, giving it a strongly stressed rhythm, with the left hand playing forceful yet brief notes to structure it. Gould continues in this vein, giving this suite the lightest touch of all six English suites.

The final English suite, the sixth in D minor, opens with what is one of Bachís longest movements in any of his suites. This prelude, almost eight and a half minutes long, is an entire suite in itself. Gould is in no hurry to begin this movement, and rightly so. He seems to construct his performance like a series of movements within a movement. He plays the first sections lightly and delicately, with florid ornamentation, maintaining a mellow tone, until he breaks into the third, contrapuntal section, where the energetic Gould takes over, his touch stronger, his rhythm more pronounced. The subsequent development of this movement is luminous, and, at the end, you may almost want to turn the music off to appreciate how self-contained it is. The rest of the suite is just icing on the cake.

Like the first volume of the English suites, this second volume is an essential recording, both for the works and as a part of Glenn Gouldís discography. Another gem. One of the finest recordings of these works on piano.

Kirk McElhearn

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