SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

J.S. BACH: English Suites – Olga Martynova, harpsichord – Caro Mitis

The Polyhymnia recording team has achieved a rich and warm sonic for the instrument, in very natural surround.

Published on March 8, 2011

J.S. BACH: English Suites – Olga Martynova, harpsichord – Caro Mitis

J.S. BACH: English Suites = No. 1 in A Major; No. 2 in a minor; No. 3 in g minor; No. 4 in F Major; No. 5 in e minor; No. 6 in d minor; LE ROUX: Gigue in A Major – Olga Martynova, harpsichord – Caro Mitis multichannel SACD CM 0032007-2, Disc 1: 74:16; Disc 2: 72:41 [Distr. by Albany] *****:

Another of the many works created by Bach and other composers of the period in sets of six.  Remembered for the oddness of the fact that the English Suites are really much more French – with only the closing Gigue of each Suite being of strictly English origin. And the fact that the French Suites are actually more Italian than French.  The English title of the suites is thought to be connected to their having been composed for an English nobleman.

In the series of dance-movements (some of them dances that were no longer in vogue at the time) and style of ornamentation, the English Suites have much in common with the French Suites and the Six Partitas. The French lutenists’ dance-suite tradition is also a strong force here. This is seen particularly in the Prelude which opens each of the six Suites. The inclusion of the three-minute Gigue by Gaspard le Roux is provided for comparison with the Gigue in the same key of A Major which closes out Bach’s First Suite. The reason is that Bach created in his Suite an imaginative free variation on this specific Gigue by the French composer.

I was surprised I had no other harpsichord recordings of the English Suites in my collection to compare, and the versions on grand piano are a different thing entirely.  However, this is the only SACD recording of the work, and Martynova turns in an exquisite performance with often rapid but not headlong tempi.  Her musicianship is extremely high, and she plays on a recently-constructed French harpsichord. The Polyhymnia recording team has achieved a rich and warm sonic for the instrument, in very natural surround on this Russian label.

– John Sunier




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