Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita No. 1 in B flat major BWV 825 [19:54]
Partita No. 2 in C minor BWV 826 [21:19]
Partita No. 3 in A minor BWV 827 [19:52]
Partita No. 4 in D major BWV 828 [34:46]
Partita No. 5 in G major BWV 829 [24:01]
Partita No. 6 in E minor BWV 830 [33:41]
Jory Vinikour (harpsichord)
rec. Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia, USA, 17-21 March 2014
SONO LUMINUS DSL-92209 [3 CDs: 41:14 + 54:39 + 57:14]
“The six partitas for harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach are among the greatest and most inspired works of all keyboard literature.” So states the Sono Luminus website introduction to this disc. Whilst I have always preferred the Goldberg Variations these partitas along with the Well-tempered Clavier certainly make a strong claim to this statement. Bach wrote his keyboard partitas sometime between 1725 and 1730 after his plans for a career as a church musician had gone badly wrong. They were published from 1726 onwards and became the foundation for the Clavier-Übung I, the first of his works to be published under his direction. Although they represent some of his last keyboard suites, through them Bach explores every aspect of the harpsichord's capabilities, stretching the instrument to its limits in these, the most demanding of his sets of suites.
In this three disc collection, which Jory Vinikour dedicates to the memory of his “beloved friend and teacher”, Huguette Dreyfus, we encounter performances that take no risks. For me the music is played quite safe and steady. This does not mean that these are not good performances, they are. It is just that it all seems a little staid. In my review of the reissue of Huguette Dreyfus’ excellent recording, now on Heritage Records HTGCD 292/3 in September 2015, I described her performances as among “the finest I have heard”. This is something that I reiterate, in comparison to this new recording. Jory Vinikour’s readings of the middle Partitas are particularly compelling, which is something he has in common with Dreyfus, however I do find him a little less inspired overall. He is also a little more relaxed in his playing, meaning that the Partitas are presented on three spacious discs rather than the usual two. In fact, since I reviewed the Dreyfus I have added a couple more recordings to my library, those by Rousset on Decca (475 7079) and a download of Trevor Pinnock’s Hänssler Classic recording, both of which have a little more to say than Vinikour, which is a shame as his playing is very good.
The recorded sound is good although the harpsichord does not sound as rich as some of the other recordings I have, and the booklet notes, by Vinikour himself, are detailed and informative, making this recording a good safe bet if not first choice.