Bach: French Suites
Thurston Dart
Label
Decca
Catalogue No.
4829398
Barcode
00028948293988
Format
1-CD
About

The so-called French Suites are actually no more French stylistically than either of Bach’s other sets of keyboard suites, the English Suites and the Partitas. They are a fascinating mixture of movements of differing national styles, primarily French and Italian, lacking an introductory movement such as a prelude and conceived for performers without the virtuoso technique demanded in particular by the Partitas.

In the sleeve note for his 1961 recording on L’Oiseau-Lyre, reprinted for this newly remastered reissue, Thurston Dart argues persuasively for the use of what was supposed to have been Bach’s favourite keyboard instrument, the clavichord. Softer in volume, the intimate clavichord also allows for more dynamic variation than the harpsichord, as well as subtleties of tone.

With this and several other L’Oiseau-Lyre recordings issued in 2019, Eloquence celebrates the art of Thurston Dart, the harpsichordist, conductor and editor who played a leading role in the early-music revival in postwar Britain. After his death in 1971 at the age of just 49, his fellow harpsichordist Igor Kipnis paid fulsome tribute to ‘the ideal musicologist-performer.’

To accommodate all six suites on a single LP, Dart omitted all repeats from the scores, but in other respects the album loses nothing by comparison with recordings of the Suites from our own, more ‘historically informed’ times, and is sure to give pleasure to Bach connoisseurs as well as listeners unfamiliar with the unpretentious charms of the French Suites. To bring the unique, ethereal sound of the clavichord into your listening room, the listener is recommended – not least by Dart himself – to play back the recording at a relatively low volume.

TRACK LISTING / ARTISTS

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)

 

French Suites, BWV 812–817

 

1–6 Suite No. 1 in D minor, BWV 812                                                                                                

7–11 Suite No. 2 in C minor, BWV 813                                                                                              

12–17 Suite No. 3 in B minor, BWV 814                                                                                           

18–24 Suite No. 4 in E flat major, BWV 815                                                                                    

25–31 Suite No. 5 in G major, BWV 816                                                                                           

32–39 Suite No. 6 in E major, BWV 817                                                                                            

 

Thurston Dart, clavichord

 

FIRST CD RELEASE ON DECCA

Track previews
French Suite No. 6 in E Major, BWV 817: 4. Gavotte
French Suite No. 6 in E Major, BWV 817: 5. Polonaise
French Suite No. 6 in E Major, BWV 817: 6. Menuet
French Suite No. 6 in E Major, BWV 817: 7. Bourrée
French Suite No. 6 in E Major, BWV 817: 8. Gigue
French Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 816: 6. Loure
French Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 816: 7. Gigue
French Suite No. 6 in E Major, BWV 817: 1. Allemande
French Suite No. 6 in E Major, BWV 817: 2. Courante
French Suite No. 6 in E Major, BWV 817: 3. Sarabande
French Suite No. 4 in E-Flat Major, BWV 815: 7. Gigue
French Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 816: 1. Allemande
French Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 816: 2. Courante
French Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 816: 3. Sarabande
French Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 816: 4. Gavotte
French Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 816: 5. Bourrée
French Suite No. 4 in E-Flat Major, BWV 815: 1. Allemande
French Suite No. 4 in E-Flat Major, BWV 815: 2. Courante
French Suite No. 4 in E-Flat Major, BWV 815: 3. Sarabande
French Suite No. 4 in E-Flat Major, BWV 815: 4. Gavotte
French Suite No. 4 in E-Flat Major, BWV 815: 5. Menuet
French Suite No. 4 in E-Flat Major, BWV 815: 6. Air
French Suite No. 3 in B Minor, BWV 814: 1. Allemande
French Suite No. 3 in B Minor, BWV 814: 2. Courante
French Suite No. 3 in B Minor, BWV 814: 3. Sarabande
French Suite No. 3 in B Minor, BWV 814: 4. Anglaise
French Suite No. 3 in B Minor, BWV 814: 5. Menuet
French Suite No. 3 in B Minor, BWV 814: 6. Gigue
French Suite No. 1 in D Minor, BWV 812: 5. Gigue
French Suite No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 813: 1. Allemande
French Suite No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 813: 2. Courante
French Suite No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 813: 3. Sarabande
French Suite No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 813: 4. Air
French Suite No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 813: 5. Menuet I-II
French Suite No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 813: 6. Gigue
French Suite No. 1 in D Minor, BWV 812: 1. Allemande
French Suite No. 1 in D Minor, BWV 812: 2. Courante
French Suite No. 1 in D Minor, BWV 812: 3. Sarabande
French Suite No. 1 in D Minor, BWV 812: 4. Menuet I-II
Recording information

Recording Producer: Erik Smith
Balance Engineer: Arthur Lilley
Recording Location: Decca Studios, West Hampstead, 15–16 January 1961
Original L’Oiseau-Lyre Release: SOL 60039: February 1962

Reviews

“Thurston Dart’s performances… make unfailingly satisfying listening by reason of their sheer musicality, their stylishness, their varied articulation and their wealth of expressive nuance.” Gramophone, February 1962

“Dart’s playing is most expressive, and those who have come to regard his approach to slow movements as severe will find the Sarabandes very much on the romantic side. Delightful performances.” The Musical Times, April 1962

“The sarabandes are especially well done: here Mr. Dart’s songlike sustaining of the melodic line is matched among harpsichordists only by such masters as Landowska and Kirkpatrick.” High Fidelity, June 1962

“Dart’s playing of the French Suites is enjoyable simply as music – graceful, witty, tender, and wonderfully moving.” Stereo Review, July 1962