Notes and Editorial Reviews
Craig Sheppard first performed all six Bach Partitas in a single concert in 1980 at London's Wigmore Hall. He repeated the feat 25 years later at Seattle's Meany Theater, an event from which the present recordings stem. Notwithstanding the slightly dry and drab sound quality, the performances are terrific. They radiate joy in every bar, distinguished by Sheppard's perfectly gauged tempos and transitions between movements, along with his ability to convey the music's dance-oriented character in nearly every movement.
In his extensive, insightful booklet notes, Sheppard claims that today he sees Bach more as a lyrical, legato composer than as the light, airy-staccato composer he once imagined. The evidence suggests something in
between. Certainly Sheppard's crisp articulation, rhythmic vigor, and spare use of the sustain pedal suggest the dry-point style Glenn Gould made famous, yet the lyrically sung out legato lines and impulsive dynamic swells and ebbs are nothing if not pianistic. Furthermore, Sheppard's nimble contrapuntal acumen manifests itself in more direct, less studied terms than the fussiness we sometimes glean from András Schiff or Rosalyn Tureck.
There are too many delightful details to savor. For example, I love how Sheppard toys with the G major Allemande's canonic interplay, but I also appreciate the C minor Partita's unforced verve in the outer movements, or the B-flat Partita Sarabande's utterly jazzy ornaments on the repeats, not to mention the D major Partita's effortless, conversational demeanor. Sheppard's Partitas leave a fresh imprint upon each rehearing, and they deserve serious consideration, even if you already own one or two piano versions.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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