Bach J S Toccata DG

Déjà Review: this review was first published in August 2000 and the recording is still available.

Johann Sebastian Bach (16856-1750)
Toccata in C Minor BWV 911
Partita No. 2 BWV 826
English Suite No. 2 in A minor BWV 807
Martha Argerich (piano)
rec. 1980s. ADD
Deutsche Grammophon 463604-2 [50]

There is a lot to be said for a respected brand name. The feeling of confidence it gives the purchaser otherwise uncertain whether or not to hand over his hard-earned money and, of course, the return to the business that has built up the name over a long period. These thoughts are prompted by the Martha Argerich CD for review, which is on the DGG Originals label with its familiar yellow cartouche and the mock vinyl appearance to the disc inside. You know where you are with this series even though its remit is now wider than when the selection first began. This confidence is more than justified in this latest offering from DG.

Martha Argerich is best known as a marvellous exponent of Chopin and the late Romantics. Her recordings and performances of Bach have been limited and this release – her only solo Bach recording – is one that has been around the listings now for many years and it deserves to reach a fresh potential audience. The immediate point that strikes one is the utter clarity of the fingering – nowhere is there a trace of fudge – and her rhythmic drive that involves the listener and sweeps him along. At times I thought I was listening to Glenn Gould without the sing-along part.

Her approach is unmannered, lean – almost austere – and quite beguiling. Her playing is masterly and the definition of the contrapuntal lines is always clear. I know there is a view that Bach should not be heard on a piano if a harpsichord is available but people who have that view should try this disc. Just a sample of – for instance – the Rondeau in the Partita, or theopening Prelude of the English Suite should convince the undecided.

The recording is excellent – a considerable improvement on the original LP as I recall it – and even at 50 minutes can be recommended with confidence.

Harry Downey

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