Bach: The English Suites Bwv 806-811

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BACH English Suites BWV 806-811 • Ketil Haugsand (hpd) • SIMAX 1329 (2 CDs: 147:35) Haugsand plays a double-manual harpsichord “in German style,” built by...


BACH English Suites BWV 806-811 Ketil Haugsand (hpd) SIMAX 1329 (2 CDs: 147:35)


Haugsand plays a double-manual harpsichord “in German style,” built by Martin Skowroneck in 1985. Its bright, clear sound is appropriate for Bach’s sometimes densely polyphonic writing. I mention the instrument right at the start of this review because I’ve found that my reaction to harpsichord discs probably depends as much on the instrument as it does on the performer. The booklet note includes extensive information about the instrument, as well as about the music itself, and Haugsand’s relationship to it.


I did some spot comparisons between Haugsand and Blandine Rannou (Zig-Zag 030401—what is it about female harpsichordists named Blandine?) because erstwhile colleague Laura Rónai named Rannou’s discs of these works to Fanfare ’s Want List in 2004. I can understand Rónai’s enthusiasm for Rannou. Her fast tempos, without loss of accuracy, are very exciting, and I slightly prefer the richer and more French sound of her instrument, which is a modern copy of a Ruckers-Hemsch by Anthony Sidey and Frédéric Bal. (There, I’ve revealed my prejudice.) Based on my limited experience, Rannou appears to be a galvanizing musician, and I intend to explore her work more in the coming months.


Having said that, I understand why Haugsand has received so many good reviews in Fanfare . This is imaginative playing, never dull or dogged, that nevertheless adheres to the accepted norms of how this music should go. He is fairly liberal with ornamentation, and not just in repeats, but he does not overdo it. (I know that some of my Fanfare colleagues belong to the “less is more” school of ornamentation in Bach, but that’s not me.) He is not metronomic, and occasionally will slow down or speed up a phrase—for expressive purposes, I imagine. This is not true rubato because, when he borrows time, he rarely gives it back. This lends his playing an unpredictable quality, but how fresh it will seem after listening to these recordings 30 times, I cannot say. Haugsand’s left hand sometimes anticipates his right. The only real complaint I have about these recordings is that the faster movements could sparkle more. They are, after all, dances. Rannou really captures the spirit of the dance in her renditions, whereas I would characterize Haugsand as the token intellectual at a dance party, the one who holds up the wall, pipe in mouth, and analyzes everything and everyone. These are intellectual readings by a musician who approaches Bach’s music with awe and respect.


Is Haugsand a scholarly musician or a musicianly scholar? On the basis of these sober but always enjoyable performances, I would suggest the former.


FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle


Product Description:


  • Release Date: April 30, 2013


  • UPC: 7033662013296


  • Catalog Number: PSC1329


  • Label: Simax Classics


  • Number of Discs: 2


  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach


  • Performer: Ketil Haugsand



Works:


  1. English Suite no 1 in A major, BWV 806

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Performer: Ketil Haugsand (Harpsichord)


  2. English Suite no 2 in A minor, BWV 807

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Performer: Ketil Haugsand (Harpsichord)


  3. English Suite no 3 in G minor, BWV 808

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Performer: Ketil Haugsand (Harpsichord)


  4. English Suite no 4 in F major, BWV 809

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Performer: Ketil Haugsand (Harpsichord)


  5. English Suite no 5 in E minor, BWV 810

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Performer: Ketil Haugsand (Harpsichord)


  6. English Suite no 6 in D minor, BWV 811

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Performer: Ketil Haugsand (Harpsichord)