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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Six Partitas
Partita no. 1 in B flat major, BWV 825
Partita no. 5 in G major, BWV 829
Partita no. 6 in E minor, BWV 830
Partita no. 2 in C minor, BWV 826
Partita no. 3 in A minor, BWV 827
Partita no. 4 in D major, BWV 828
Christopher Czaja Sager, piano
Rec: July 1993, Doopsgezinde Kerk, Amsterdam.
HAENSSLER CD 94.104 [136.09]
Superbudget


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Bach’s keyboard partitas were his first published works, his opus 1. These six suites were actually the last suites Bach wrote for keyboard, and owe a great deal to French influence. These are relatively popular works, and have been recorded by most of the world’s leading pianists. Christopher Czaja Sager gives an interesting reading of these works, and, unlike most pianists, gives the partitas an additional level of colour by playing them on three different pianos.

Sager plays the first partita at a relatively slow tempo, similar to Wolfgang Rubsam’s interpretation on Naxos. This approach is quite enjoyable to some, since it brings out totally different elements of the music than when it is played at a faster tempo as most performers do. Sager’s choice of a Yamaha piano gives this, and the third, fifth and sixth partitas, an interesting sound. Less resonant than the more common Steinway, this piano has an attractive tone that fits will with some of the more lively movements.

Sager plays the sixth partita in a similar fashion - the opening toccata is slow and sinuous, and he gives it a more improvisatory sound than many other pianists. His overall performance of this partita is excellent; his playing truly blossoms in this idiom.

The second partita benefits from a fine-sounding Bösendorfer piano, with even less resonance than the Yamaha. This piano is more compact both in size (2 metres, compared to 2.74 and 2.74 for the others), and sound. Sager plays this partita much faster than the others, and exudes less conviction. The allemande is very attractive, but the faster movements, such as the final capriccio, sound a bit too inflexible.

The main problem with this set is that Sager takes a very uneven approach to the partitas. While each individual work is coherent, there is no overall vision. His differences in tempi - from the relatively slow first partita to the fairly rapid fourth - show that he does not see this as a set of works, but rather as a group of individual, unrelated suites. Some of the partitas are excellent, others just good. This is a set worth discovering, especially at its budget price, but the listener should not expect to appreciate all of the works in the same way.

Kirk McElhearn


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