J S Bach - English Suites Nos 1, 3 & 5
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Cat No: 2564621939
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 3rd November 2014
WorksEnglish Suites (6), BWV806-811
ArtistsPiotr Anderszewski (piano)
“The wonderful thing is that the modern piano can suggest so many instruments…Playing Bach on the piano, it’s really all about suggestion”, says Piotr Anderszewski. More than 10 years since the release of his first recording of J S Bach’s English Suites, these interpretations of Suites 1, 3 and 5 join the Warner Classics catalogue.
Anderszewski’s concert performances of Bach in 2013 prompted the New York Times to write: “He revels in the full range of timbres afforded by the modern piano”, while The Guardian cited “some of the most sublime piano playing London has witnessed all season”.
Piotr Anderszewski himself has said that: “I always keep in mind that the harpsichord was the most popular keyboard instrument [in Bach’s time]. But I would really not like to try and imitate the harpsichord - in that case, I would rather play the harpsichord! So, bearing in mind the limitations of the harpsichord, but still using the really full expression of the modern concert piano - this is the paradox. The wonderful thing is that the modern piano can suggest so many instruments. It can suggest the voice, the orchestra, even percussion instruments. It can also suggest the harpsichord. Playing Bach on the piano, it’s really all about suggestion.”
The English Suites featured prominently in Anderszewski’s concert schedule for 2012/13. His performance at Carnegie Hall prompted the New York Times to observe that “his Bach recital was characterized by unabashedly personal interpretations that he delivered with persuasive intensity ... He revels in the full range of timbres afforded by the modern piano and often uses the sustaining pedal to allow notes to pool together like watercolors...Mr. Anderszewski’s interest seems to lie less in the structure of Bach’s counterpoint than in the individual moments of drama it affords. That the results are never indulgent is due above all to his deep musicality and psychologically astute instinct ... Any pianist can bring out the playfulness of the second Gavotte in the English Suite No. 3, but Mr. Anderszewski added a layer of hushed melancholy that suggested the playfulness of one accustomed to being alone. Each movement was vividly drawn. There was a shy Courante, a bustling Sarabande, a haltingly curious Gavotte, a sociable and chatty Prelude. The Sarabande of the English Suite No. 3 began with a succession of chords that evoked proud Spanish guitars but then gradually darkened, ending on a note of bitter loneliness.”
After his Spring 2013 concert at London’s Southbank Centre, The Guardian spoke of “some of the most sublime piano playing London has witnessed all season. Anderszewski's manner reflects the intensity of his relationship with each note and phrase. He appears less to perform existing repertoire than rebuild each piece from scratch, holding everything spontaneously in balance ... His physical relationship with the piano...yields a control over tone and structure, touch and phrasing, which few pianists can equal.”
La Tribune de Genève, meanwhile, waxed lyrical: “Piotr Anderszewski is in contact with other worlds, because he searches for each note in the depth of his own world. The voices that traverse it and that he evokes cannot be ignored. They are not there to charm, but to perturb...they surprise and shake us. They make us marvel, overwhelm us...Bach’s voice sings everywhere, in every finger. It is an outpouring of song, an endless discussion between voices that call to each other, answer each other and contradict each other, each with its own timbre, character, articulation and rhythm...The whole vibrates with a supernatural light and resonates like a choir or an orchestra.”
1English Suite no.3 in G minor BWV808 - I. Prelude
2English Suite no.3 in G minor BWV808 - II. Allemande
3English Suite no.3 in G minor BWV808 - III. Courante
4English Suite no.3 in G minor BWV808 - IV. Sarabande
5English Suite no.3 in G minor BWV808 - V. Les agremens
6English Suite no.3 in G minor BWV808 - VI. Gavotte alternativement
7English Suite no.3 in G minor BWV808 - VII. Gavotte II ou La Musette
8English Suite no.3 in G minor BWV808 - VIII. Gigue
9English Suite no.1 in A major BWV806 - I. Prelude
10English Suite no.1 in A major BWV806 - II. Allemande
11English Suite no.1 in A major BWV806 - III. Courante I
12English Suite no.1 in A major BWV806 - IV. Courante II
13English Suite no.1 in A major BWV806 - V. Courante precedent avec basse simple
14English Suite no.1 in A major BWV806 - VI. Sarabande
15English Suite no.1 in A major BWV806 - VII. Bourree I
16English Suite no.1 in A major BWV806 - VIII Bourree II
17English Suite no.1 in A major BWV806 - IX. Gigue
18English Suite no.5 in E minor BWV810 - I. Prelude
19English Suite no.5 in E minor BWV810 - II. Allemande
20English Suite no.5 in E minor BWV810 - III. Courante
21English Suite no.5 in E minor BWV810 - IV. Sarabande
22English Suite no.5 in E minor BWV810 - V. Passepied I en Rondeau
23English Suite no.5 in E minor BWV810 - VI. Passepied II
24English Suite no.5 in E minor BWV810 - VII. Gigue
So it proves here with a spellbinding new account of the odd-numbered English Suites for Warner Classics. Anderszewski succeeds in capturing the essential character of each suite: the Vivaldian flair of the G minor, the relaxed pastoral mood of the A major, and the contrapuntal dynamism of the E minor. But he also delves far beneath the surface in his constant probing of the music's inner workings. There is nothing remotely precious about this approach; on the contrary, there's a permanent sense of wonder at the limitless riches of Bach's invention.
Each suite opens with a Prélude, in which Anderszewski illuminates the counterpoint with unerring clarity and sureness of touch. The lighter dance movements that follow are ideally sprung, yet time is taken to bring out contrasts in character: try the Gavottes in the G minor Suite (tracks 6 and 7), the Bourrées in the A major (tracks 15 and 16), or the Passepieds from the E minor (tracks 22 and 23). In each case, Anderszewski's astonishing variety and sensitivity of touch is fully at the service of the most vivid characterisation.
Perhaps most remarkable of all are the Sarabandes – the triple-time slow movements that form the expressive heart of these works. The G minor Sarabande starts with flamboyant grandeur and boldly clashing harmonies, but Anderszewski introduces a gradual diminuendo so that, by the time we reach the elaborate ornamentation of the agrements movement (track 5), the music seems to be suspended by the most delicate and fragile of threads.
This is music-making of rare insight and power. With a recording that matches the intensity of the performances (made at Warsaw's Philharmonic Hall), this disc is required listening for anyone who values intelligent, committed and involving pianism. Anderszewski's Bach discs may be rarities, but they are always well worth the wait!
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