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Bach: Complete English Suites / Olga Martynova


Release Date: 12/14/2010 
Label:  Caro Mitis   Catalog #: 32007   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gaspard Le RouxJohann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Olga Martynova
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 27 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BACH 6 English Suites, BWV 806–811 Olga Martynova (hpd) CARO MITIS 0032007-2 (2 SACDs: 146:57)


Ever notice how first impressions can be misleading? After auditioning this set briefly before Christmas, I decided that it was nothing special and put it away for later listening. When I returned to it after the holidays, I discovered that here was a superlative recording of the English Suites from a most unlikely source: a young Russian harpsichordist whose previous appearances in Read more Fanfare were on ensemble CDs containing works of Berezovsky, Schmittbaur, and Wölfl. Given the repertoire and Martynova’s limited participation, it’s understandable that neither Ron Salemi nor Peter J. Rabinowitz took much notice of her playing. The six so-called English Suites of Bach, on the other hand, are one of the pinnacles of the keyboard repertoire and a perfect choice for Martynova’s solo debut in Fanfare. The results are nothing less than spectacular.


One does not normally associate Russian musicians with period-instrument performance, although there is one well-regarded period orchestra currently in operation called Pratum Integrum (also on the Caro Mitis label—Olga Martynova is the continuo player), and there have been at least two Russian fortepianists whose records have sold well in the West, Olga Tverskaya and Alexi Lubimov. Since the days of Richter and Oistrakh, Western audiences expect nothing less than technical perfection from Russian artists, and Martynova does not disappoint. Her performance of the grand Prelude to Suite No. 5, for example, is note-perfect and exciting as hell. But instead of the frantic, unrelenting style of Baroque playing that came out of Russia in the 60s and 70s, we hear a thoroughly relaxed, natural kind of Bach interpretation. There is a give-and-take to her playing, an attack and release that I associate with the very best Bach interpreters, such as Leonhardt, Pinnock, and Gilbert. Martynova knows how to personalize the music by applying subtle rubato to the high points of phrases, while at the same time maintaining a steady pulse and the rhythmic integrity of the piece. This is the best kind of rubato, exactly the sort advocated by Thurston Dart in his marvelous little book The Interpretation of Music (Huntington Library, 1954). Just because it’s called “stolen time” ( tempo rubato ), says Dart, doesn’t mean you’re allowed to keep it! You must give it back somehow so that the forward motion is not lost.


The choice of harpsichord is inspired. A two-manual copy after Blanchet by the shadowy Parisian builder Reinhold von Nagel, it is one of the warmest, richest-sounding, least jangly harpsichords on disc. Perfectly balanced through the registers and sporting an imposing bass, the instrument’s sonorities, on held chords, are reminiscent in their fullness of an organ. Thanks to the presence of a Dutch Tonmeister , the instrument has been perfectly captured in a realistic acoustic. The SACD tracks reveal added richness not to be found on the otherwise excellent Red Book CD layer.


This recording of the English Suites replaces my previous favorite, Edward Parmentier on Wildboar. If magnificent harpsichord playing has any meaning in your life, waste no time in ordering this set.


FANFARE: Christopher Brodersen
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Works on This Recording

1. Gigue for harpsichord in A major (from "Pièces de clavessin") by Gaspard Le Roux
Performer:  Olga Martynova (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Venue:  5th Studio of The Russian Television and 
Length: 2 Minutes 46 Secs. 
2. English Suite no 1 in A major, BWV 806 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Olga Martynova (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  5th Studio of The Russian Television and 
Length: 22 Minutes 1 Secs. 
3. English Suite no 2 in A minor, BWV 807 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Olga Martynova (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  5th Studio of The Russian Television and 
Length: 18 Minutes 46 Secs. 
4. English Suite no 3 in G minor, BWV 808 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Olga Martynova (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  5th Studio of The Russian Television and 
Length: 16 Minutes 0 Secs. 
5. English Suite no 4 in F major, BWV 809 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Olga Martynova (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  5th Studio of The Russian Television and 
Length: 16 Minutes 2 Secs. 
6. English Suite no 5 in E minor, BWV 810 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Olga Martynova (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  5th Studio of The Russian Television and 
Length: 18 Minutes 12 Secs. 
7. English Suite no 6 in D minor, BWV 811 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Olga Martynova (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  5th Studio of The Russian Television and 
Length: 18 Minutes 45 Secs. 

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