Bach: The Six French Suites

Reviewed on Fri 13 Jan, 2017

It’s the exquisitely nimble and nuanced blending of Bach’s aching spirituality and multifarious French dance forms that pleases here.

For his debut on the Yellow Label after more than four decades with Sony, Murray Perahia returns brilliantly to Bach. Composed between 1722 and 1725 and originally intended for harpsichord, the six French Suites readily lend themselves to the rounder, more variegated tones of a modern Steinway piano. It’s the tonal quality that catches the ear here in as fine and flexible playing as Perahia has committed to disc in recent years. Start with the bubbling, buoyant Gigue of the Fifth Suite to hear Perahia positively singing with gleeful panache. Then jump to the quiet melancholy of the Sixth’s Sarabande for a consummate pianist at his most tender and thoughtful. It’s the exquisitely nimble and nuanced blending of Bach’s aching spirituality and multifarious French dance forms that pleases here. The delightfully spry gavottes and remarkably touching sarabandes are particular pleasures. Perahia exhibits masterly feeling for structure and substance, rhythmic variety, tone and temperament to imbue the suites with an immaculate sense of rightness.
–Michael Quinn