Monday, 10 July 2017

Bach - French Suites - Ashkenazy

Rating: 3/5

Not an interpretation for me

It seems like sacrilege to say this of such a magnificent musician, but I'm not terrifically keen on Ashkenazy's recording of the French Suites.  He is genuinely among the very greatest of pianists in huge areas of later repertoire, but to me he doesn't feel quite at home here.  I recognise that this is a personal view which is by no means shared by everyone, but for what it's worth:

Ashkenazy's technique and tone are, of course, superb and the sound he brings from his piano is wonderful, so there are some lovely moments here.  However, for me this too often lacks the firm underlying pulse and sense of dance which permeates Bach's music.  There is a good deal of rhythmic freedom, even between different lines, which can be effective but for me disrupted the cohesiveness so that at times the different contrapuntal parts failed to gel into a whole and sounded rather eerily separate from one another, and I quite frequently struggled to make sense of it.

I have a number of fabulous recordings of the French Suites including Angela Hewitt and Murray Perahia on the piano and Davitt Moroney, Christophe Rousset and Masaaki Suzuki on the harpsichord; for me Ashkenazy doesn't quite get inside the music as they do.  However, at this level of musical brilliance these things are a matter of personal taste; your taste may differ from mine in which case you may love this – and fair enough.  Personally, though, I’ll be sticking to my other, much loved recordings.

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