Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita No. 2 in C minor BMV 826 (1731) (Sinfonia [4.38]; Allemande [4.23]; Courante [2.11]; Sarabande [3.58]; Rondeaux [1.32]; Capriccio [3.32])
Partita No. 1 in B flat major BMV 825 (1731) (Praeludium [1.52]; Allemande [3.01]; Corrente [2.55]; Sarabande [5.02]; Menuett I and II [2.54]; Gigue [2.22])
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Three Preludes and Fugues for Organ (arr. for piano by Liszt): C minor BMV 546 [10.25]; C major BMV 547 [8.29]; A minor BMV [9.43])
David Theodor Schmidt (piano)
rec. SWR Stuttgart, Kammermusikstudio, 26-29 July 2010
HäNSSLER PROFIL PH11025 [67.26]

Many distinguished pianists have recorded the Bach partitas and a number, including Ashkenazy, Gould, Hewitt, Schiff and Perahia, have recorded all six. This is David Schmidt’s second or third recording of Bach original compositions and transcriptions so he appears to have an affinity with the music. In this recording he plays the first two partitas and, in a nice piece of programming in this bi-centenary year, plays transcriptions of Bach organ preludes and fugues by Liszt.

Bach’s keyboard music played on the piano often provides pianists with an opportunity to be creative and inventive, while taking account of baroque ornamentation and performance style. Schmidt’s account of the partitas is very measured and solid and there is a nice variety of ornamentation reflecting a thorough knowledge of the baroque idiom. In the repeats of particular movements he adds additional ornamentation which is well judged and executed. He has a nice tone and very good articulation so the contrapuntal textures are exceptionally clear.

While this is very good playing Schmidt is not yet on the same par as the greatest Bach interpreters. In order to elevate his playing to the next level he needs to be slightly less constrained and rigid in his approach and to allow himself greater artistic and creative freedom.

Schmidt’s playing of the first two movements of the second partita and the sarabande was a little constrained. I thought he could have made more of the dance elements of the music in the allemande and the sarabande. The courante was better with Schmidt bringing out its wit and quirky nature. The rondeaux and capriccio were played very well with Schmidt bringing a nice variety of touch and some deft ornamentation to the former, and robust rhythmic propulsion to the latter.

I preferred Schmidt’s handling of the First partita where he made good use of baroque ornamentation. Again some of the movements were slightly constrained and I partly missed that underlying baroque bounce and forward propulsion that one hears in performances by Gould and Hewitt. Schmidt excelled himself in the corrente which had some beautifully crafted phrasing and nicely judged rhythmic propulsion. The gigue with its difficult hand crossing was managed well and there was more of a feeling that he was letting himself go.

Schmidt does a good job in creating rich sonorities and textures for Liszt’s transcriptions of the Bach organ preludes and fugues using a wide range of tone colour, including some heavy bass notes, to imitate the sound of the organ. He displayed a wide dynamic range and excellent control of the intricate passage-work. The voicing of the fugues was generally very good although I thought the first could have been clearer in one or two places. Overall these were very well played and Schmidt deserves credit for including these lesser known transcriptions in his recital.

Overall, this was a good recital but there is scope for this talented artist to up his game further.

Robert Beattie

Overall, this was a good recital but there is scope for this talented artist to up his game further.