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Bach: Six English Suites / Gustav Leonhardt


Release Date: 09/10/2002 
Label:  Virgin Classics Veritas Edition Catalog #: 61157   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 37 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

It was about a decade ago that Gustav l.eonhardt recorded Bach's six English Suites for Philips; they were reissued a few years back as part ofa set including Leonhardt's performances of the 'French Suites' but that is no longer available. I have always admired his earlier readings of the English Suites, but these new ones are, I think, greatly to be preferred. An unattractive feature of the older set was the way in which the harpsichord itself was balanced; it was much too close giving an aggressive aspect to Leonhardt's playing which really was not there. Compared with his new recording the earlier one is sombre, rather deliberate and superficially only, perhaps, lacking in good humour. In the intervening passage of time he seems to have Read more cultivated a livelier approach to these Suites; they flow more naturally and he has lost some of the apparent stylistic self-consciousness which gave the impression of a certain wooden-ness in his playing.

The English Suites were not published during Bach's lifetime and their date of composition is uncertain; probably they belong to the Cöthen period—perhaps before—but, although considered to be earlier than the 'French Suites', they are, nevertheless, carefully and homogeneously constructed. Their dimensions are ambitious, too, and the loftiness of their intent is evident in each and every one of the opening Preludes, though it is sometimes thought that these may have been written after the remaining movements of the Suites. Leonhardt gives a vigorous account of them with articulation which, if not clearer than that in his earlier recording, is to my ears more natural. Tempos in the new issue are often though not always a shade brisker; I particularly liked his easy-going pace for the Allemandes, though this is, in fact, a characteristic of both sets. Readers in possession of Kenneth Gilbert's warmly regarded recordings of the English Suites on Harmonia Munch will find his tempos faster still—perhaps a shade too fast for me in the Preludes though the Allemandes and Courantes allow for more in the way of reflection. Gilbert, sparingly and effectively introduces unequal rhythms here and there giving an additional Gallic flavour to the music; Leonhardt does so, too, especially in the Courantes. Where the Sarabandes are concerned Leonhardt brings a shade more grandeur to his approach but slightly at the expense of a mild poignancy which Gilbert conveys without sacrificing nobility. Both players imbue the smaller dance movements with a lively and sophisticated ease of manner.

There are, of course, an almost infinite number of details in which Leonhardt and Gilbert approach the music with different thoughts, providing different solutions; but they are both extremely accomplished performances and a preference for one over the other will be largely a matter of taste. I cannot be more helpful or, perhaps, you may think, less helpful than that but I have listened to both the Leonhardt versions and the Gilbert set many times over and find illuminating things in all of them. As I said earlier on, Leonhardt's new album does appeal to me more than the older one but whether, in the end, you derive enjoyment more from one artist or the other will be up to you. Technically speaking both are first rate and, from a musical standpoint, I find both convincing. The new set is very clearly recorded but I marginally prefer the Harmonia Mundi balance. Leonhardt plays a mid-eighteenthcentury French instrument recently restored by Skowronneck, whilst Gilbert uses a somewhat later French instrument from his own collection. The new release will make a fine additioin to anyone's library.

-- Gramophone [12/1985]
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Works on This Recording

1.
English Suite no 1 in A major, BWV 806 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 1984 
Venue:  Haarlem, Holland 
Length: 15 Minutes 43 Secs. 
2.
English Suite no 2 in A minor, BWV 807 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  Haarlem, Holland 
Length: 16 Minutes 35 Secs. 
3.
English Suite no 3 in G minor, BWV 808 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  Haarlem, Holland 
Length: 13 Minutes 46 Secs. 
4.
English Suite no 4 in F major, BWV 809 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  Haarlem, Holland 
Length: 15 Minutes 34 Secs. 
5.
English Suite no 5 in E minor, BWV 810 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  Haarlem, Holland 
Length: 14 Minutes 51 Secs. 
6.
English Suite no 6 in D minor, BWV 811 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  Haarlem, Holland 
Length: 20 Minutes 6 Secs. 

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