Friday, October 8, 2010

But what is 'English' about them?

I've been listening to Peter Watchorn's beautiful recordings of Bach's English Suites (Ti-254) for the past few days. The suites are early Bach, dating from the Weimar period (like dates of composition 1709-1717, according to the booklet), but they're not nearly as flashy as some of the organ music he was writing around the same time. As collections of dances — sarabandes, gavottes, bourees, etc. — they prefigure the suites for solo cello cello and the partitias for solo violin. Some like their Bach "white hot," to use a favorite expression of one DJ who has made a specialty of Bach, but what I like about these performances is how intimate and, well, comforting they are. Watchorn's harpsichord sounds like rain pattering against the window on a gray afternoon.

Postscript to my remarks about Marja Kaisla's performance of the Emperor Concerto last Sunday: It struck me sometime this week that the best word to describe her playing is "creamy."

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