Two complete French Suites of BACH – HM (harpsichord) & Resonus (clavichord)

Bach: Two complete French Suites – one on harpsichord, one on clavichord.

BACH: The Six French Suites – Richard Egarr, harpsichord – Harmonia mundi HMU 907583.84, 1 hr. 45:33 (2 CDs) [5/27/16] *****:</br>

BACH: The Six French Suites – Julian Perkins, clavichord – Resonus Classics RS10163, 2 hrs. 5:37 (2 CDs) [3/4/16] ****:

Although it was Bach’s keyboard instrument of choice, these two double-CD sets make it quite clear why the harpsichord was the more popular keyboard instrument.  Two different clavichords patterned after late 18th century German originals and made by Peter Bavington are used on the clavichord traversal. The instrument is known for its expressive and lyrical qualities, but about the only person who can properly hear it, due to the extremely low volume level, is the keyboardist himself.

The reasons for the much longer running time of the clavichord set is the inclusion of two further suites: the opener being an early partita by Johann Jakob Froberger, and a Suite in A Major by Telemann, long thought to be by Bach himself.  Don’t set the playback volume too high for these stylish performances on the hard-to-hear instrument. The Egar harpsichord set also boasts some additional tracks: A short Menuet 2 and the Courante variants, both from BWV 813. These come at the very end of the recital. He plays a gorgeously-decorated instrument just built last year by a maker in Haarlem.

British keyboardist and conductor Richard Egarr is known for his several recent Bach recordings, always full of freshness and a sense of adventure. This is not Bach to fall asleep to – Egarr is known for his muscular and strong Bach performances, and the HM sonics are as rich and good as one can get from the CD-quality format. The note booklets for both are excellent, but the Perkins jewelbox rear is very small white type on a tan background, making it extremely difficult to read.

—John Sunier

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