53,656 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...




selling Internationaly

Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here

Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere
Normal service resumed


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas


Recordings of the Month


Beethoven String Quartets

Produzioni Armoniche

Seven Symphonic Poems

Shostakovich VC1 Baiba Skride
Tchaikovsky Symph 5 Nelsons

Vivaldi Violin Concertos



Beethoven Piano Concertos

Stradal Transcriptions

LOSY Note d’oro

Scarlatti Sonatas Vol 2

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
French Suites
No. 1 in D minor BWV 812 [16:45]
No. 2 in C minor BWV 813 [15:56]
No. 3 in B minor BWV 814 [16:43]
No. 4 in E-flat major BWV 815 [14:46]
No. 5 in G major BWV 816 [18:34]
No. 6 in E major BWV 817 [16:18]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Suite in C major, K.399 (1782) and Gigue in G major, K.574 (1789) [15:07]
Peter Hill (piano)
rec. 5-8 July 2015, University Concert Hall, Cardiff.
DELPHIAN DCD34166 [64:14 + 50:02]

I remain a great fan of Peter Hill’s Well Tempered Clavier on the Delphian label (reviews here of Book 1 and Book 2), and if you have already heard these then you will already know what to expect from this recording of The French Suites.

Hill’s touch in Bach is very much a ‘chamber-music’ experience rather than one for larger concert venues. That said, his sound is of the sort which would carry much further than you might expect. Poetic and confiding, Hill’s piano is made to sound sympathetic with 18th century aesthetics rather than the symphonic concert arenas of the 19th and 20th – those fields in which the modern Steinway has been designed to be competitive.

Sublimely crafted beauty is where we begin and end with this set. Even where drama might seem to be called for there is control and reserve aplenty. Many pianists take the final Gigue of the First Suite as a call for theatricality, Andrea Bacchetti’s Sony recording being a case in point, and none the worse for that as an alternative view. Hill retains his sense of proportion, balancing those dotted rhythms against the antique bustle of the earlier Courante. That gorgeous Sarabande is of course the heart of this suite, and Hill’s sustained performance sings with mystic devotion without turning the movement into an uphill dirge. Hill takes a measured approach in general but is by no means always slow, or certainly doesn’t sound slow in something like the Courante of the Second Suite. András Schiff is more rapid here in his Decca recording, but with a greater tendency towards rubati and wider dynamic extremes gives his Bach a more romantic feel than Hill. While on the subject of rubato and expressive ‘lift’ to notes and phrases I came across Ivo Janssen’s complete Bach box while searching through various versions online, and was disturbed to hear him putting irritating little rhythmic stretches in all over the place in his French Suites, so I’m glad I avoided that when it came out in 2011.

Peter Hill’s playing has that natural sense of breathing and flow which pretty much removes expression from the thought processes while listening, by which I mean it is avoided as a technical layer and becomes integrated into the music in ways which make performer and composer somehow inseparable. There is a lack of complication here which allows you to sit back and enjoy in the knowledge that you are in safe hands. Take the two-part Allemande that opens the Third Suite: no need for much embellishment, no great expressive statements to deliver, just Bach’s refined counterpoint in its purest form. There are arguments to be had about tempi in this and other movements of course. Andrei Gavrilov on his admirable Deutsche Grammophon recording comes in at 2:25 to Hill’s leisurely 3:39 in this movement, but then Hill replies with a Courante at 2:13, running fairly close to Gavrilov’s 1:56 and winning in the contrast stakes. Hill is frequently less flashy than his rivals, but usually with good reason.

Peter Hill goes into some detail on each suite in his excellent booklet notes for this release, and points out the Suite in C, K.399 “epitomises Mozart’s fascination with baroque music”, making its choice as a filler by no means a strange one. The transition from Bach to Mozart is distinctive but by no means shocking. Hill has completed this four-movement K-number with the Gigue in G, K.574 written in Leipzig in 1789 while steeped in the atmosphere of Bach’s Thomaskirche. Mozart’s counterpoint has an exploratory quality which wanders into territories for which Bach would no doubt have been keen to point out alternative solutions, but that final Gigue is indeed a tour de force that takes us through much of the chromatic scale in under two minutes.

Peter Hill is to Bach what Dave McKenna was to jazz when it comes to the piano. His amicable and unpretentious playing fills me with a warm fuzzy feeling and leaves me happy to be alive, and you can’t get much better than that.

Dominy Clements



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger