The versatility of the suite form proved well suited to Johann Sebastian Bach in his instrumental works, and the English Suites are no exception. These are distinct from Bach’s other suites with their quasi-improvisatory opening Preludes, and further movements encompassing a wide range of moods and styles from lively dances to the pensive intensity of the slow Sarabandes. The Montenegrin Guitar Duo’s fresh and historically informed performances of these works have been acclaimed as “simply ravishing” (American Record Guide). The Montenegrin Guitar Duo is frequently invited to venues such as the Philharmonia Hall in Saint Petersburg, Manuel de Falla Hall in Madrid, and the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. International festivals regularly engage the duo to give recitals, deliver lectures and masterclasses, and adjudicate major competitions. In 2013 their debut album was released by the Montenegrin Music Centre, featuring works by Domeniconi, Piazzolla and Bogdanovic. The first of their two volumes of Bach’s English Suites was released in 2015 and received excellent reviews.
This is a glorious disc. Simply glorious. Anderszewski and Bach have long been congenial bedfellows and the Pole’s playing here is compelling on many different levels. To start with, there’s the sense of sharing the sheer physical thrill of Bach’s keyboard-writing. This is particularly evident in faster movements such as the fierce and brilliant fugal Gigue that concludes the Third Suite, or, in the E minor Fifth Suite, the extended fugal Prelude and the outer sections of its Passepied I. Common to all is a sense of being fleet but never breathless, with time enough for textures to tell.
The Dutch performer Bob van Asperen is a recognized specialist in the realm of performance on period keyboard instruments. Born and raised in Amsterdam, Asperen completed a conventional university course of study in music before embarking on lessons with harpsichord master Gustav Leonhardt starting in 1967; Asperen made his debut in Haarlem in 1968. Also in 1968 Asperen joined the group Quadro Hotteterre, of which he was a member until 1984. Asperen completed his studies in 1972 after finishing a course in organ at the Amsterdam Conservatory given by Albert de Klerk. Afterward he accepted a teaching post at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, which he held until tapped to replace the departing Gustav Leonhardt at the Sweelinck Conservatory, prompting Asperen's return to Amsterdam. His teaching duties in the Netherlands have not restrained him from touring internationally; Asperen has given master classes elsewhere in Europe and also Canada, the United States, and Australia.
Bach’s keyboard works known as the English Suites offer a series of dance movements which, despite their name, owe more to earlier French and German models. This is the first of two recordings of the complete English Suites arranged for two guitars by the distinguished Montenegrin Guitar Duo. Transcriptions of Bach for solo guitar have been popular since the nineteenth century and the emergence of the guitar duo extends still further the potential for exciting and revelatory performances.
While Ivo Pogorelich established his reputation performing mainly Romantic repertoire, his few forays into the Baroque reveal him to be an equally engaging- if not eccentric musician here as well. In quicker movements, such as the opening Preludes of the English Suites for instance Pogorelich's rhythmic control and contrapuntal clarity are simply amazing. Slower movements likewise are handled with remarkable intensity and delicacy. Pogorelich's performances of four Scarlatti sonatas concluding the program as well are wonderfully animated and knowing.
From the irresitably forceful opening bars of the English Suite's prelude to the throbbing repeated octaves of the D minor concerto, Richter shows why many of Bach's works are ideally suited to the piano. The Bach concerto is often regarded as a student piece, or relegated to refined performances on the harpsichord. Not here – the bookend movements are as maniacal, pulsing and driving as the best of John Coltrane or Prokofiev. The CD is worth it just for those movements, but Richter's treatment of the English Suite is equally enlightening, especially the Prelude and Gavotte.
…In sum, this is a disc that's easy to recommend for its consistently engaging music and first-rate performances–but it's also a recording that you can turn way up and enjoy full-bodied, undistorted, viscerally present instrumental sound. A winner!
Every Richter fan will want to hear his performances of four of Bach's English Suites (6) taped in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow on May 20, 1991. Recorded near the end of his career, they are Richter at his most deeply affecting and deeply human. Richter was 76 when he gave these performances, but they reveal no lack of power, no technical weakness, and certainly no want of intensity. But at this point in his life and always in this repertoire, Richter has restrained his virtuosity to concentrate on Bach's linear counterpoint played with such complete independence of the fingers that every line is clear, cogent, and compelling. But more than anything, Richter's lines are voices, all singing their own lines in effortless and ineluctable ensemble with each other and thereby creating a whole infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. In these late performances, Richter is at his most lyrical, with each voice given its own supple phrasing and its own sweet tone. While being quintessentially pianistic, Richter's performance of Bach's music is essentially the sound of Richter singing. Great Hall's sound is raw and honest. ~ James Leonard, Rovi Performances