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on 27 December 2009
Murray Perahia recorded three of the Bach partitas a few years back after recovery from a hand injury -- Bach: Partitas Nos. 2-4 -- and now he's back to finish the set. Again this time, Perahia uses his trademark intelligence, style, technique and beauty of sound to create a recording that can stand with any extant recording of this music. Using the limpid fragility he portrays in Chopin and Mozart, Perhaia travels through Bach's magnificent creations in an almost dream-like trance, giving you Bach's notes, his humanity, and Perahia's singular approach that combine for memorable playing and memorable Bach.

Like he did a few years ago with Partitas 2, 3 and 4, Perhaia shows you Bach's imprint and counterpoint as only he can. While he doesn't portray the prestidigation of Glenn Gould Bach: Partitas Nos. 4, 5, 6 or the manic rush to judgment by the likes of Martha Argerich Bach, J.S.: Toccata BWV 911; Partita No.2; English Suite No.2, he wallows in sound while he demonstrates the left hand-right hand counterpoint that all Bach players must master.

Not everyone will enjoy this and you probably know if you don't like this way with Bach. If unsure, listeners with an interest in more mercurial playing, greater reliance on technique, and stricter adherence to counterpoint may be better served elsewhere, either by Gould or in a newer recording from Seattle professor Craig Sheppard J.S. Bach: The Six Keyboard Partitas. Sheppard is a fine player lacking subtlety and his recording has won plaudits.

However, Perahia is at least as accomplished a player as Sheppard, has consistently demonstrated powerhouse ability across a wider span of composers and styles, and the professor is not close to Perahia as a colorist, image-maker and sound technician. Where Sheppard's playing is perfect, he doesn't project the other possibilities in the scores, nor does he seem interested in portraying the humanity of J.S. Bach in his playing.

Bach was the most intellectual of all the great composers, sometimes composing music strictly as an intellectual exercise for himself (The Art of Fugue, among others) and many players only see this side of him in their music-making. But Bach was also a dogmatic Lutheran, a strict believer in the almighty, and the father of more than 20 children. He even spent a night in jail once in a dispute over music! These qualities grounded Johann Sebastian among the rest of us and made him more of an everyman than most great composers, who tend to stride atop Mt. Olympus. These humanistic qualities must also be available when realizing the art of J.S. Bach and they are on display from Perahia.

Even though I graded this five stars, I have heard other recordings of these three partitas that I find more convincing that offer perhaps greater longlasting enjoyment. For Partita 1, I'd recommend Dubravka Tomsic's fabulous concert on an inexpensive disk Bach: Italian Concerto; Partita BWV 825; Toccata BWV 912. For the Partita 5, I'd recommend Andras Schiff's first recording of the partita in 1984 Andás Schiff Plays Bach. For the titanic Partita 6, you should heard Elena Kuschnerova's concert Piano Works (Elena Kuschnerova).

Nevertheless, this is a magnificent recording of some of the greatest keyboard music on this planet. Every great pianist at some point should record one or more of Bach's partitas, which have rightly been compared to Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas for the way their traverse time, space, emotion and mental processes of the respective composers. Anyone putting out the incredibly low asking price for this recording will not be disappointed, in my opinion, even if Perahia's liquid tone and trance-like approach isn't your cup of tea.
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This set, completing Murray Perahia's recording of all six of Bach's Keyboard Partitas, is simply brilliant. The music is fabulous and Perahia's playing is quite wonderful.

The six Partitas conform largely to the accepted form and order of a suite of dances, providing Bach with a template for his unrivalled contrapuntal skill in which he was utterly at home. The result is a set of pieces with wonderful rhythmic variation and delightful fluency of lines, and these Partitas (along with his English and French Suites) are among Bach's finest keyboard works, in my view. They are inventive, endlessly rewarding and, above all, hugely enjoyable to listen to.

Murray Parahia understands all of this to his core, and has the superb technique to allow it to flow out of him utterly naturally. He often has a delightful lightness of touch which never trivialises but allows the music to dance and glow as it should, and he preserves the music's intellectual weight even in the most toe-tapping movements. Perahia is slightly freer with rubato than some interpreters have been, and how well thias suits you will be a matter of taste. His judgement of ornamentation is impeccable, with just enough to allow make the music's sense clear without overlaying it with unnecessary interpretative tricks.

Unless you have a rooted objection to Bach on the piano (in which case I'd recommend Christophe Rousset's harpsichord recordings 6 Partitas Bwv 825 - 830 (Rousset)) you cannot possibly go wrong with these two discs. They are superb and very warmly recommended.

[At this level of excellence it is purely a matter of personal taste, but I thought I'd mention that I still marginally prefer Angela Hewitt's interpretations (now in a fantastic box of all her Bach recordings Angela Hewitt plays Bach (Complete Solo Keyboard Recordings).) This is a matter of tiny things, though, and I would be very happy with this set alone.]
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on 25 May 2012
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I LOVE ALL THE RECORDINGS HE HAS MADE OF BAROQUE PERIOD MUSIC (BACH HANDEL SCARLATTI). SIMPLY THE BEST.
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on 21 March 2016
There is something rather bland about these recordings. They seem to have a touch of romanticism e.g. Chopin about them. This takes away much of the crispness I love to hear with Bach performances. Some pianists seem to preserve some of the harpsichord sharpness which I prefer.
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on 3 June 2016
Clear relaxing recording
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on 27 September 2015
Very relaxing music
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on 18 January 2010
Got to have five stars to cancel out a ridiculous review made by someone who does not quite understand the purpose of reviews.
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on 15 February 2013
I am sure I will enjoy this CD, but at the moment I am confused because inside the cover, the booklet contains the music commentaries on Brahms' Handel Variations op24 & Rhapsodies op 79, Piano Pieces 118 & 119...there is no reference to the Bach Partitas at all!

I have left feedback with Amazon, but it's Sony's packaging problem. I just thought buyers should be aware of this.
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