Bach: French Suites

Floral design

Richard Egarr harpsichord
105:33 (2 CDs in a jewel case in a cardboard sleeve)
harmonia mundi HMU 907583.84

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f Julian Perkins’ recent recording gives us the scaled-down soundworld of the clavichord for these suites, Richard Egarr takes full advantage of a large Couchet double-manual harpsichord copy by Joel Katzman to show that they don’t just have to be treated as domestic music. On this recording they emerge very much as public pieces. These are exhilarating performances, sometimes brash (especially in the Courantes), but always convincing.

Tempi can be a bit fast, but the listener is swept along by Egarr’s strong sense of drive and singing lines, and by some constantly innovative ornamentation. They are very personalised readings from a performer who clearly enjoys his playing and, as in his liner notes here, likes to be a bit provocative. Egarr adds in some variant versions of the Menuet and Courante from Suite no. 2 (though unfortunately on the other CD from the Suite itself). This is very stimulating recording and is highly recommended.

Noel O’Regan