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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita no. 1 in B flat major, BWV 825
Partita no. 3 in A minor, BWV 827
Partita no. 6 in E minor, BWV 830
Piotr Anderszewski, piano
Rec: November 2001, Studio de la Fondation Tibor Varga, Sion, Switzerland.
VIRGIN 7243 5 45526 2 5
[68.10]
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Since receiving this new disc, containing three of Bach’s six keyboard partitas, I have listened to it over and over again, attempting to get a handle on Piotr Anderszewski’s interpretation of these works. It is not often that I am so perplexed by a performer that I cannot come to a conclusion more easily. With most pianists, these works show immediately the approach of the performer; whether the interpretation is restrained, unbridled, or somewhere in between these two extremes. But with this disc, there is no pinning down Anderszewski’s performance.

He opens with the Sixth Partita, the first measures of which he plays with grandiose flourishes, eschewing any strict tempo, and seems almost to be rushing through this first section. But then when he gets to the second contrapuntal section, he becomes more rigid, then returns again to his flights of fancy. There seems, at first, to be a contradiction in these brief sections of the opening. Yet as the work goes on, one hears that it is full of contradictions - at times his ornamentation is almost excessive, at other times his tempi seem rigid and overly stiff.

The same can be said for his dynamics: at times, he plays very softly, much more so than many pianists would play Bach; at others his left hand especially is much more forte than one could expect, such as in the final gigue of the Sixth Partita. He uses a light touch for most of the allemandes and sarabandes, but more vigour in the courantes and gigues. He tends to put a great deal of stress on the final gigue of each partita, which, combined with his light touch in most of the opening movements, gives each work an upward progression in intensity, which does not always seem in the spirit of these works.

This disc is full of contradictions, yet somehow these contradictions work together to create a tone that is quite compelling. I have not yet decided if I truly like this way of playing Bach, but it has the merit of requiring repeated listenings, and indeed grows on the listener.

Without being able to come to a firm judgement on this disc, it is nevertheless one of great individuality, which presents Bach in a very new light. Anderszewski’s approach is unique and very personal, and certainly deserves the attention of those who are curious about new ways of interpreting these works.

Kirk McElhearn


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