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on 21 January 2004
Bach piano works are within my favorite music. Perahia has few peers in playing Bach (... and Chopin ) on the piano.
Having said that a few additional comments can be enough to review the Perahia interpretation of English Suites Nos 1-6: personalised but coherent although never didactic, clean and refreshing..... crystalline; richness and harmony always present.
Perhaia plays the sonatas beautifully indeed and, above all, he conveys the feeling that this is music to be enjoyed.
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This and its companion disc, between them comprising all six of Bach's English Suites, are both brilliant. The music is fabulous and Murray Perahia's playing is quite wonderful. They have now been released as a single set: Bach: Complete English Suites.

These six suites are English in name only, conforming 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 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's judgement of rubato and ornamentation is impeccable, with just enough to allow make the music's sense clear without overlaying it with unnecessary interpretive tricks. It is exemplary Bach playing, I think.

Unless you have a rooted objection to Bach on the piano (in which case I'd recommend Christophe Rousset's harpsichord recordings Bach: English Suites, BWV 806 - 811 /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 10 September 2011
Bach's music is possibly the supreme test of the skill of a pianist. His music must be played with strong understanding of the technical details that surround his music. Yet at the same time, it must not become mechanical or forced. In order for Bach's music to be given a satisfying performance, it must sound very natural and musical. Too many times Bach performers lack one of these essential ingredients. But I am very pleased to say that Perahia does not. He has clearly studied the complex contrapuntal harmonies that are the backbone of the English Suites (and all of Bach's music for that matter). But instead of giving a cold, forced performance, Perahia has seen the potential for music making.

Perahia begins this recording with a steady, confident rendition of the Prelude of the 2nd Suite. But even here, he takes time to bring out beauty and lyricism. The following movement, the Allemande, is even better. Perahia's tone is overflowing with warmth and emotion - a kind of playing that makes you want to stop what you are doing and just sit and listen. This is followed by a magnificent performance of the Courante, where the music gently flows. As though he had not yet given us enough, Perahia gives us a meltingly lovely Sarabande. But it goes far beyond merely being pretty. There is a depth of emotion that words fail me to describe. The Bourees sparkle with vitality and excitement. And the concluding Gigue is a free-for-all roof raiser.

And that is not to mention the other two Suites on this disc - Suites that are equally satisfying. In fact, I find the 5th to be the most touching Suite on this CD. I find it nearly impossible to hold back the tears when listening to his performance of the Allemande and Sarabande of the above Suite. There is such an inner quality to this music that is rarely found elsewhere. Only some of Perahia's other recordings can match the emotion that this disc is full of.

You should by all means buy this album. It will provide hours of listening pleasure. But it will also do much more than that - it will have you thinking deeply about life and its purpose.
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on 13 December 2012
I already had the Gould version of the English Suites, but felt that the phrasing was a little perfunctory. Perahia treats the music with the necessary reverence - rhythmically exact, yet exquisitely phrased. These are some of Bachs finest keyboard pieces, profoundly spiritual, and sometimes surprisingly playful. I can imagine no better interpretation
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on 12 August 2016
Beautifully played and a crisp recording. I'm listening to this over and over again and never tire of it. An excellent DVD at a bargain price.
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on 26 March 2012
Melchizedek, the High Priest of HIP, was sitting behind his desk in a secret office under the Quirinal Palace. His chair had no padding and the cavernous room, lined with marble on all sides, was frigid. He working away on his latest encyclical `On the Assumption of David Munrow' when the door into the room, some fifty meters away, swung open and a delegation filed in. Robed in cardinal red, there was a dozen of them or so (and one of whom was cowled). En masse, they goosestepped towards his desk. With immense dignity, the High Priest rose to greet them. Attendants materialised and provided each of his guests with a seat that was as spartan as his own.

"My brothers in 410 HZ," Melchizedek said crisply in his falsetto voice, "as you know that reactionary publication, the Penguin Guide, is petering to an end as its triumvirate enter their dotage. We have the opportunity to replace it with a Period Practice Catechism that will provide the faithful with error-free advice. There is no reason why we cannot offer a similar scope to that execrable little tome: after all, one can now acquire spruce HIP performances of Bruckner and Mahler; and surely such recordings of Richard Strauss and beyond are in train. With the backing of SPECTRE (Sinister Period-Practice Enacted to Counter Traditional Readings Everlastingly) and its Number One (Ernst Hogwood-Blofeld), I formed this working party. Each of you has a different brief. Today we ascertain your progress. Now, who is overseeing the chapter on Bach?"

"I am," said the cowled figure to the left. "It is complete."

Somewhat quizzical as to the man's identity, Melchizedek leaned forward to glimpse his face.

"Really? What's the line-up, Brother . . . Brother?"

"Sir John Eliot Gardiner in the cantatas and choral works; Kenneth Gilbert in the 48; Number One himself - may he clip forever - in the French Suites; Rousset in the Goldberg Variations; Glenn Gould - an agent provocateur - in the Two and Three Part Inventions and Toccatas; Pinnock in the Partitas and . . . . . Murray Perahia in the English Suites."

Melchizedek hissed like a serpent.

"What did you say? Repeat it at once!" The man complied and in a more brazen voice.

"Heresy, heresy, heresy!" the High Priest shrieked as he reached for his forty-four calibre crosier. "Tell me: has that despicable figure recanted his errors and started to record on a 1735 Ruckers harpsichord? I will not allow this Catechism to become a charnel house for high romanticism!"

"I thought the whole purpose of period practice was to promote clarity when it had been swamped by anachronistic power," the man said confidently, "but the two factors are such jolly bedfellows in Perahia's English Suites - why shouldn't they be our primary recommendation to the market? Who cares if he is using a Steinway? Perahia plays with such vivacity and éclat that mere stylistic considerations are burnt away by the intensity of the music-making. The venom he brings to bear in the first movement of the Fifth Suite is astounding. The inner voices are expertly balanced. And above all, the dance-element to each piece is magisterially celebrated. What taste and what an intellect!"

At that point, the man stood up and took off his cowl. It was Murray Perahia himself.

"I've come to offer my sincere condolences. My dear Colonel Melchizedek, you shouldn't have opened that door of the pope-mobile yourself! Here is a little present from Universal Imports!"

With relish, he lobbed over a copy of his English Suites. It landed on Melchizedek's lap and promptly burnt through his cassock like acid. Shrieking away, the High Priest of HIP soon had cause to trumpet to the world that the age of the castrato was born anew.
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