6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Nice, but not the final word,
This review is from: English Suites, No. 1, 3 & 6 (Audio CD)
Perahia has made it his highest mission to play the music of Bach, as it seems. He always keeps returning to the composer, after having flirted with composers from the Romantic era. Yet I don’t know if he’s entirely right here. I wouldn’t deny for a moment that Perahia’s Bach shows great understanding of the music as well as a perfectly polished sound. But somehow it appears to me that these qualities are much better suited to the aforementioned Romantic composers. In Schubert, Chopin or Schumann Perahia has few equals. When playing Bach, he’s surely excellent, but he enters Glenn Gould’s territory here. Who seems, to me, nearly unbeatable. Gould’s style and personality were unique, and so are his Bach recordings. Gould can be revolutionary, shocking, intimidating. He can infuriate you with his playing, but even then he grabs your attention. While Perahia is, at least in Bach, rather pleasant and gentleman-like. These may very well be the most profound, fair recordings of the English Suites available, but it’s just not the real thing (a.k.a. Gould). If you like your Bach relaxed and melodical, then by all means get this. It won’t disappoint for a moment. But it could do so for those seeking adventure and new discoveries. As for myself, I strongly prefer Gould, but it’s simply undeniable that Perahia plays this music very well. To return to the main subject of this paragraph, however: there is so much more music that he plays well, without having an unbeatable rival. So he might focus on other terrain a little more.
For what we have here, I have a lot of praise but also some remarks. I mentioned Perahia’s extremely polished sound already: his Bach always sounds like a box of delicious chocolates. His subtle, slightly romantic touch is greatly enjoyable, and so is his reading of the music: it’s neither too fast nor too slow: just all perfect. The dynamic accents are not exaggerated, but very correct. So is his treatment of each kind of piece: the Gigues are nervous dances, the Gavottes are exquisite little gems (especially that of the third suite), the Sarabandes broad songs and so on. I can’t really say he does anything ‘wrong’. Yet it is his being just too neat and correct that makes the disc a little less satisfying or even a little boring. Maybe he should have taken more risks, but now we’re moving into the direction of Gould again. This is Perahia, however, and it’s his style to keep everything in a ‘fine’ spirit, without ever being brusque. It’s fine to listen to, but on the other hand there’s some lively spirit missing. Perahia certainly does an admirable job on these discs: I can’t recall any real negative things, but it just misses the crisp freshness and joy of Gould.
Nevertheless, I recommend this disc. This music can be interpreted in different ways and the two aforementioned pianists are a good combination of these different routes. With one clear favourite, however.