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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous recording, 30 Jan. 2004
By 
R. SA NOGUEIRA SARAIVA "Rodrigo de Sa" (LISBOA Portugal, Europe) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bach: English Suites, BWV 806 - 811 /Rousset (Audio CD)
I'd like to mention a brand new recording of the Bach ENGLISH SUITES by Christophe Rousset.
The big companies are investing little or nothing in this kind of repertoire, but new ones are filling this gap. In this instance, it is a label called AMBROISIE (see ambroisie@wanadoo.fr). The issue is lavishly composed and the notes are interesting. But let’s go to what really matters – the interpretation.
Rousset’s previous Bach records were interesting. He was the pupil of Asperen and Leonhardt, but he felt the agogic and rhythmic approach of the Dutch school was not appropriate for him. He therefore received further formation with Kenneth Gilbert.
In his early recordings one could quite easily detect Gilbert’s influence: the musical phrase reigned supreme and, in particular with French harpsichord music, it was just sublime.
With Bach, I think he showed less brilliance. His Goldbergs were very good but not outstanding, and his Partitas were, again, quite good but less interesting than, say, Leohnardt’s or Gilbert’s.
With this record he seems to have come of age. He has a very clear individuality, and his English suites are his own version – you cannot sense Leonhartd’s or Gilbert’s influence. It is Christophe Rousset, the master, not the former pupil of A or b you are listening to.
Let’s start with the instrument he chose. It is a Johannes Rückers 1632 remade in France in 1745. It is, thus, a Flemish French double. The sound is a marvel: brilliant but with body and deep basses and the precision only French keyboards allow.
As to version itself. The English suites were never very easy music. There is a big Prélude, usually composed latter than the rest of the suites and having a different style (they remind one more of the Concerto form than actually of the Prelude form) from the subsequent dances, very French in character. The suites are very taxing in terms of keyboard skill and of music architecture. They also present the big problem of the reprises – except for the Preludes, every dance is bi-partite and is presented as AABB. The question is whether one must actually make the repeats or just play AB. As I mentioned when I considered the Partitas, the problem is a real one, because if one observes all the repeats the music is bound to be boring in the extreme.
Rousset solves the problem in the most musicological convincing fashion; he repeats the sections, but ornaments them profusely. We therefore get what Bach probably intended in the first place: AA’BB’. The English suites are the obvious place to make this, because some of the ornamented repeats are actually written down, so one knows how Bach ornamented his works.
He plays all the suites at a rather brisk tempo – as Bach himself was said to do – and in a very flowing manner – as Bach recommended one should: cantabile. Therefore you listen to a continuous flow of music, never heavy, never actually touching the ground before they end; even the repeats seem to be organically linked by this marvelous phrasing.
The Preludes are all wonderful, the allemandes just perfect, the courantes are really flowing, the rather profound sarabandes are quite the best I ever heard, the ‘agréments’ are lovely, the final Gigues are convincingly concluding and each suite has its own character and overall architecture. Wonderful.
There is not a single case where I would say the interpretation can be bettered. All seems so perfect, so musical and so beautifully expressive you feel you are listening to the archetype of this score rather to an interpretation.
A masterful feat indeed: Leonhardt’s (1st one, Philips, 2nd one HMV, now both Sony I think) and Gilbert’s (HM) are clearly defeated here. And even the fabulous version of Murray Perahya is less convincing.
This one is a must buy, I think.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Bach, 5 Oct. 2013
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Bach: English Suites, BWV 806 - 811 /Rousset (Audio CD)
This is a terrific recording of Bach's English Suites. Christophe Rousset is a brilliant harpsichordist and he is at his best here.

These suites are among Bach's finest keyboard works. They show all his greatness in melody, counterpoint and expression of human emotion and although they are performed somewhat less often than some of Bach's other works I think they are hugely enjoyable and satisfying.

Christophe Rousset plays them excellently. He has the technique to make even the trickiest parts sound quite natural and he has a deep understanding of Bach. That essential pulse is there throughout and he judges rubato and ornamentation perfectly to my ears. His tempi are generally quite brisk and are almost breakneck in some places (try the closing Gigue of the Second Partita, for example) but he carries it off very well and it never feels rushed or inappropriate. I go back to this set time and again with great pleasure.

If you want a harpsichord version of these suites you can't go wrong with this. Wholeheartedly recommended.

(For a different but equally good piano interpretation, I would recommend Angela Hewitt Bach: English Suites - now included in a fantastic box of all her Bach recordings Angela Hewitt plays Bach (Complete Solo Keyboard Recordings).
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Bach: English Suites, BWV 806 - 811 /Rousset
Bach: English Suites, BWV 806 - 811 /Rousset by Christophe Rousset (Audio CD - 2008)
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