Rubinsky & Bach: A Grand Suite of Dunces

Review by: Jens F. Laurson


Artistic Quality: 5

Sound Quality: 8

Sonia Rubinsky might be known to piano music lovers—or to admirers of Villa-Lobos—for her recordings of the latter’s complete piano music on Naxos. Now she has set her sights on Bach and offers an album grandiloquently titled “Magna Sequentia I – A Grand Suite of Dances compiled by Sonia Rubinsky”. It is alleged to be a “unique sequencing of [19] dance movements” following “a tonal logic” and offering “fresh insights into Bach performance on a modern grand piano.” If only it were so. To the uninitiated listener, the selection seems hodge-podge, at best. Rubinsky pilfers the Partitas and French Suites for favorite movements and dots them with what feels like haphazard “Best-Of” moments, including, rather jarringly, the Aria from the Goldberg Variations, haltingly played.

As a grand Suite, cobbled together from individual movements, it does not work—not least because some of the individual movements are too well known. Toward that end, Claire Huangci’s selection of Scarlatti sonatas arranged in faux suites (Berlin Classics) works far better. And even if the keys are well-matched, some transitions are jarring, such as the Loure from the Fifth French Suite into a Gavotte and from there into another Goldberg Variation. Taken as a “My-Favorite-Bach-Bits’n’Pieces” album, meanwhile, it does not come close to, say, Víkingur Ólafsson’s Bach-perusal, the inspiring Alexandre Tharaud’s “Concertos italiens” with Bach-transcribed and original miniatures (Harmonia Mundi), or Edna Stern’s ravishing disc of tailored Chorale and Prelude and Fugue settings “Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland” (ZigZag).

There is nothing technically wrong with the playing on this studio-produced album, but (a terrifically compelling Gigue from BWV 816 notwithstanding) the interpretations sound hasty and rhythmically wayward one moment, then overtly deliberate the next, and ordinarily proper in between. Rather than anything about this recital—apart from the idea and certainly the title—being outright bad, it’s just that everything is a bit off and that the result is a bit boring. And if that’s not bad, it still is fatal.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Magna Sequentia I--A Grand Suite of Dances
  • BACH, J.S.:
    Various dance movements (compiled by Sonia Rubinsky)
  • Sonia Rubinsky (piano)

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