Egarr’s Excellent English Suites

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

The English Suites constitute Richard Egarr’s most artistically satisfying solo Bach release to date. As always, his playing abounds with rhythmic liberties and agogic phrasings, yet they rarely pull focus from the music’s dance origins.

The Fourth suite’s Courante, for example, has a swinging resilience not always evident in other period performances. Egarr also lays into the big chords of the Third suite Prelude in a manner that projects both the movement’s gravitas and churning intensity. A similar observation applies to the Sixth suite’s first Gavotte, which is followed by a second one whose higher octave registration manages not to sound the least bit cloying. Egarr’s beautifully contoured dialoguing between the hands in the Fifth suite’s Allemande justifies a tempo that might appear marginally too slow on first hearing. Conversely, I applaud Egarr’s refusal to rush the Gigues, where his centered basic pulse and eloquent melodic articulation allow these movements to both sing and dance.

The gentle colors characterizing the Katzman harpsichord’s quill plectra register beautifully via Harmonia Mundi’s engineering and are entirely appropriate to Egarr’s interpretations, which convincingly complement Christophe Rousset’s more extroverted and imposingly resonant traversals. Recommended.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Rousset (Ambroisie); Leonhardt (Virgin Classics)

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