This set of Bach's 'Opus 1', i. e. his six 'partitas' each consisting of an introduction and then five or six dance movements, was recorded by EMI in 1986 and was, in fact, Leonhardt's second recording of this particular masterpiece. There are two sides to my evaluation. First, the positive side: this is an immaculate piece of playing and engineering. I have seldom heard such a crisp, clear-cut recording of a harpsichord, and there are few instruments that please the ear so much as this one, made by William Dowd of Paris as a copy of an 18th century German original from Berlin. The sound is absolutely delightful, and I find myself looking forward to hearing the discs over and over again. Leonhardt had, by this time, abandoned the austerity of style which some critics attributed to him, and his playing is masterfully controlled, his ornamentation highly suggestive but never overdone.
The other side of the coin is the fact that Leonhardt, for some reason known only to himself, decided here to do without all the repeats. Not one single repeat is included! Thus a total playing time of around 95 minutes - too short for a budget re-release on 2 Cds and up to 50 minutes (!) shorter than some of his competitors with the same repertoire. This decision to omit the repeats is not mentioned in the notes, as it should have been. And if EMI/Virgin were going to re-release this disc, they could easily have added another work as an 'encore' (some 2-CD boxes have around 150 minutes of music on them!).
In sum: Some beautiful playing with glorious harpsichord sound, but not good value for money and with a somewhat laissez-faire attitude towards Bach's intentions.
This is Gustav Leonhardt's 1986 recording of JS Bach's 6 keyboard partitas and it displays the great Dutch master at the very top of his game.As the other reviewer states,Leonhardt had, by the time of this recording,dispensed with the austerity of his earlier playing and turned to a more flexible manner with plenty of vigour in the faster movements.Yet,he also retained a dignity in the slower movements with the sarabands in particular taking on a wonderful gravity.
The harpsichord used for this recording is a copy of a 1704/1710 Mietke by William Dowd and has a superb sound.The bass is strong with the tenor/alto range delightful and a treble that is clear but not harsh.
The only snag to this excellent recording is the lack of repeats but the interpretation,engineering and bargain price tag more than make up for this.In fact,some people may find it easier to digest 95 mins of harpsichord music rather than 160 mins of it when most or all repeats are observed.
Anybody who loves these towering compositions will find plenty to enjoy here and marvel at a Gustav Leonhardt who's playing by 1986,had reached it's zenith.
(If you are looking for a harpsichord recording of these compositions with most or all repeats played then any of the following can be recommended -Pieter Jan Belder/Brilliant Classics,Ketil Haugsand/Simax,Robert Woolley/Chandos,Masaaki Suzuki/Bis or Pascal Dubreuil/Ramee.)
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At the price offered, the 2-CD set is an excellent value. I love hearing the works on harpsichord and even though I believe this recording is relatively old, the recording quality is excellent, and interpretation also.
Regarding the Partitas: it's said to be some of the best work Bach ever composed for solo keyboard.
Particular highlights included for me:
- Allemande from Partita #4 - First two movements of Partita #5 - First two movements of Partita #6 - The entire Partita #1 (my favorite) - First movement of Partita #2
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