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Bach: French Suites, Overture / Andras Schiff [2 DVD]

Album Summary

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : French Suite no 1 in D minor, BWV 812
>Bach, Johann Sebastian : French Suite no 2 in C minor, BWV 813
>Bach, Johann Sebastian : French Suite no 3 in B minor, BWV 814
>Bach, Johann Sebastian : French Suite no 4 in E flat major, BWV 815
>Bach, Johann Sebastian : French Suite no 5 in G major, BWV 816
>Bach, Johann Sebastian : French Suite no 6 in E major, BWV 817
>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Overture in the French style in B minor, BWV 831
Performer Composer

Notes & Reviews:

"András Schiff, born in 1953 in Budapest is nowadays one of the most appreciated and distinguished pianists in the world. Magically, he brings life into pieces, makes them breathing and swinging and keeps up almost forgotten ideals of piano playing. Thus, he is not only a great pianist, but also a professional whose view is not limited on piano music, but who has wide knowledge of the broad field of macro culture. This enables him to play the piano which always makes sense to his own point of view. The Concert Recording is accompanied with some interviews with András Schiff, which enriches and completes the great experience of the concert. During the interview, Schiff sits at the Steinway piano and explains the French Suites which J. S. Bach composed during 1722 and 1725 for Cembalo, but also its closeness to Bach's Goldberg variations and Orchestra suites. He plays a short passage of a Suite, explains it and plays again, but then he interrupts himself once again. This happens without script but with refreshing spontaneity and directness. Completing this part, you can see András Schiff at the Thomas Church and Bach Museum where he talks about Bach's years in Leipzig, his musical and personal development. "Shiff's flexible tempo style that results from his thinking in the bigger picture, is perhaps the most compelling aspect of his pianism. Here someone manages the seemingly impossible synthesis of delicate sparkling single notes and much more widely thought architecture. A music that seems to reach into infinity, funny as Scarlatti or Haydn distinguished, witty - and uplifting beautiful. "Leipziger Volkszeitung"

"In a bonus DVD accompanying András Schiff's Bach recital at Leipzig's Protestant Reformed Church, the pianist explains how the French Suites were likely conceived to be played at home, on the clavichord, for perhaps four people in the room, whereas the Overture in the French Style is essentially orchestral music recast for keyboard. A church and a small audience may not exactly constitute house music, yet the intimate scale of Schiff's performances certainly reflect his words. Although Schiff's tempi generally differ little when compared alongside his 1991 Decca versions, the phrasing boasts more finely tuned legato/detached differentiation, with leaner textures and more specificity in regard to following contrapuntal lines through to their final destination.

You particularly notice that in the Sarabandes, which are less rounded and tapered now, and more line-oriented, without sacrificing one iota of expressivity (the C minor is a good example). The Gigues remain just as buoyant, yet with an added sense of "air" around the notes, as if Schiff were not interpreting Bach on the piano so much as through the piano. Perhaps this has to do with Schiff's conception of certain lines as played by other instruments. True, we can split hairs over this movement or that movement, such as in my preference for the 1991 E flat Courante's more propulsive basslines over 2010's lighter manifestation, where, by contrast, the French Overture's Courante's bassoon-like bass-lines are more in the forefront this time around.

The bottom line (I swear, I only saw the bad pun right after I typed it!) is that Schiff can play all six suites and the more demanding French Overture in one concert and sustain a level of artistry, concentration, stamina and attention to detail as few pianists of his or any generation have accomplished. And if that weren't enough, Schiff plays the entire Italian Concerto as an encore. The varied and unobtrusive camerawork serves the music, the artist and the occasion well, as does the clear and resplendent surround-sound audio." -Gramophone

Fanfare
Andrßs Schiff has, for the entirety of his career, performed Bach's music. In the current recital, filmed as part of the Bachfest 2010, Schiff performs all of Bach's "French" music, that is, the so-called French Suites and the French Overture; for his generous encore, he completes the Claviernbung II with the entirety of the Italian Concerto. Surprisingly, he presents the suites in numerical order, admitting on the second DVD that this is a bit awkward in recital as the first three suites are all in minor keys, the last three all in major. He also points out the fact that Bach certainly did not intend for these suites to be performed one after another in concert.

For the home viewer, this is obviously not an issue as it is easy enough to jump from one spot on the DVD to another; nonetheless it is surprising that Schiff programmed the pieces in this order, when just a couple of years ago he arranged the six Partitas by ascending tonics, staggering major and minor tonalities (G Major, A Minor, B?-Major, C Minor, D Major, E Minor) because he felt this worked far better as a modern concert program than Bach's original numerical ordering. Were Schiff less persuasive of an artist than he is, this would be detrimental to the enjoyment of the recital.



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Works Details

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : French Suite no 1 in D minor, BWV 812
  • Performer: Andras Schiff (Piano)
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Written: 1722

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : French Suite no 2 in C minor, BWV 813
  • Performer: Andras Schiff (Piano)
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Written: 1722

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : French Suite no 3 in B minor, BWV 814
  • Performer: Andras Schiff (Piano)
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Written: circa 1724

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : French Suite no 4 in E flat major, BWV 815
  • Performer: Andras Schiff (Piano)
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Written: 1722

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : French Suite no 5 in G major, BWV 816
  • Performer: Andras Schiff (Piano)
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Written: 1722

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : French Suite no 6 in E major, BWV 817
  • Performer: Andras Schiff (Piano)
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Written: circa 1724

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Overture in the French style in B minor, BWV 831
  • Performer: Andras Schiff (Piano)
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1735