Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Instrumental Works: Recordings, Reviews & Discussions - Main Page | Order of Discussion
Recording Reviews of Instrumental Works: Main Page | Organ | Keyboard | Solo Instrumental | Chamber | Orchestral, MO, AOF
Performers of Instrumental Works: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

French Suites BWV 812-817
General Discussions

French Suites on harpsichord

Jim Morrison wrote (July 23, 2001):
I was just searching online for complete recordings of the French Suites on harpsichord and so far I've only been able to find Jarrett on EMI, Moroney on Virgin at budget price, Gilbert on Harmonia Mundi (from the mid-70's but now available on a six disc set with the Partitas and English Suites, which can be found for about 2 dollars at Berkshire), and Payne (first on BIS in the early 90's and now on Brilliant Classics).

I've got the Moroney, Gilbert and Payne, and at while I can't claim to be the biggest fan of this music in general, Payne speaks to me the most. But I'm still looking for something better. I understand that Hogwood put out a
set in the early 80's, but I'm not really a fan of his. Nor of Jarrett.

Koopman I see also put out a recording which can also be had at Berkshire on an eight disc set for about fifty dollars, which is too high of a price for me to grab it.

Anyone have recommendations or know of other complete sets that I didn't come across. I'm looking for something lively, to tell the truth. Something with some swing to it. Lots of flow and dance. I know Don, at least I know he use to be, a big fan of Moroney's set. Is that still your first choice, over Jarrett and Hogwood?

I've never heard the Dart on clavichord, though every one I know that has it has spoken highly of it. Maybe that's the one I should be looking for.

Thanks,

Donald Satz wrote (July 23, 2001):
[To Jim Morrison] Yes, Moroney is still first with me. I recently obtained that box set of Gilbert's and am looking forward to his French Suites. I also like Jarrett and Hogwood very much. Actually, I haven't found a piano set yet which gets my total affection, although Rübsam may be the one.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (July 23, 2001):
There is also a G. Leonhardt recording on Seon label at budget price. It depends on what you mean for "complete recording" : you'll find the 6 six suites but without any repetition.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (July 23, 2001):
[To Riccardo Nughes] I find it a bit stiff, and the lack of repeats annoys me.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 23, 2001):
[To Jim Morrison] Jaccottet and Alan Curtis on harpsichord, and Dart on clavichord.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (July 24, 2001):
Jim Morrison wrote:
< I've never heard the Dart on clavichord, though every one I know that has it > has spoken highly of it. Maybe that's the one I should be looking for. >
Well, you have mentioned my choices - Moroney, Payne and Dart. If you didn't see my recent review of the Dart, I'll post it again.

Jim Morrison wrote (July 24, 2001):
I recently asked for recommendations for French suites and Brad wrote back with

Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Jaccottet and Alan Curtis on harpsichord, >
ah, yes, leave to Brad to recommend recordings that are NLA. :-)

Seriously, I listened to Jaccottet's Sixth French Suite (small samples that is) which is the only one available that I could find on a Bach sampler disc of hers that also includes the duets and Italian Concerto. It does sound good, and in fact reminded me a bit of a performance by a woman I'm not usually inclined to completely enjoy, though this time I really do: Landowska's version of the Sixth French Suite, which I find very lively and dancey. The more I listen to Landowska, the more I like her, though it's definitely taking time for me to find my way around her unique land of Landowska/Bach.

I couldn't find the Leonhardt SEON set that was mentioned. Does anyone know if it's available in America? If so, from where?

By the way, the first recording of the French Suites I ever heard was that very odd disc by Gould. I don't think I'll ever forgive him, and perhaps not even the French Suites themselves, for that performance. :-)

Thanks,

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 24, 2001):
Jim Morrison wrote:
< I recently asked for recommendations for French suites and Brad wrote back with >
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< Jaccottet and Alan Curtis on harpsichord, >>
< ah, yes, leave to Brad to recommend recordings that are NLA. :-) >

Can I help it if the music publishers are unable to distinguish diamonds from shards of glass?

The Curtis set from 1980 would make a nice single CD reissue with a total time of (only) 57 minutes for all six suites. (And I don't want to make you cry, Jim, but it's on the 1728 Zell.) The last issue I've seen was the Teldec 3-CD set 8.35776 from 1989 including all the English and French suites. Maybe one will turn up yet on eBay or somewhere?

The Jaccottet series should come swinging around again sometime on another super-budget label, the labels that show up at discount electronics houses. It's already been on Digital Concerto, Intercord, Pilz Vienna Master, Point Classics, and some others. There's probably still a huge stockpile of them somewhere. Last year I stopped by a mall where a guy had rented one of the unused shop spaces to dump a large inventory of those Belgian Digital Concerto series and other random stuff he got from army bases. Not being clairvoyant, I failed to buy extra copies of the discs I already have.... The guy was gone the next week.

Classical CD collecting is a game of eternal vigilance.

< By the way, the first recording of the French Suites I ever heard was that very odd disc by Gould. I don't think I'll ever forgive him, and perhaps not even the French Suites themselves, for that performance. :-) >
I believe the critical terminology you're looking for here is "whack." That Gould set is exciting, man, yeah, but it's whack. Then when $ony converted it from a perfectly fine mid-price single disc (all six) to a full-price set of two discs, well, that's even more whack. But hey, shards of glass sell well. They're sparkly. I'm just glad I didn't pay more than $10 for it while doing my civic duty to have all of Gould's Bach on CD, no matter how whack some of it is.

Jim Morrison wrote (July 24, 2001):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Can I help it if the music publishers are unable to distinguish diamonds from shards of glass? >
No, Brad, you sure can't. I like hearing what people think are the best. That way I know how to aim high when I go to used stores or cut-out pins.

Interesting that van Asperen's Toccatas from the Teldec series is at Berkshire, but the Curtis isn't.

Concerning the Gould French Suites, I think CBS made a mistake not putting the French Suites 5 and 6 at the beginning of the CD instead of at the end. Those two are the best, in my opinion, and were recorded before Gould's favorite piano was damaged. Number 1-4 were recorded about a year afterwards, some of them on the partially repaired piano. Gould, is in a way, fighting to overcome the new condition of his piano.

The Ouverture in the French Style, which is included on the Sony re-release, pushes the set's total time to around 86 minutes, was recorded before and after the damage in a span from Jan 71 to November 73, almost three years.

That CBS French Suite disc must have more tracks on it than just about any other disc that I have: 40.

Sony's re-release is of benefit to me because disc two begins with the fifth and sixth suites. I don't have to punch through 20+ tracks to get to them.

Plus there are cool liner notes that say things like "It may comes as a surprise to discover that, in spite of his reputation as a Bach specialist, Gould did not make a single Bach recording for 'Columbia' in four of the years between 1955 and 1976 (the fallow years were 1956, 1960, 1961, and 1968) and that in two of the other years (1958 and 1970) only a single day was spent in the studio working on Bach."

Also spelled out is that "apart from the duo sonatas Gould did not record a single cycle in numerical order." Wonder if they are forgetting the WTC?

The fifth and sixth French Suites, along with the French Ouverture, were released as a separate album in 1974, about six months after the first four. You can make a case for breaking apart how Gould in fact meant us to listen to these works.

Here's another interesting quote from the liner notes "'In speaking of his style,' the French psychologist and musicologist Michel Schneider wrote in 1988 in his study Glenn Gould--Piano Solo'...'I can think of very few words: remoteness, terror, disproportion. He puts us to the test--I know people who cannot tolerate this over-transparent sound, this sublimated piano playing; it makes their flesh creep, makes them clench their fingers...There is something deeply mysterious in Gould's playing, in this secco playing, which is detached to the point of being 'pointilliste' yet through which a line of extraordinary density and incredible continuity is none the less revealed...With Gould it is not his fingers that bind the notes together but what he is thinking...For the listener, the (vocal) line is there, because it was present in Gould's conception."

Most of those ... were in the liner notes.

Also in the liner notes are a few bar graphs that plot the number of days in the studio that Gould spent with Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schoenberg.

If you're a Gould fan and don't have this recording, I can't really recommend it outright, (just too whack as Brad said) but if you see it marked down or used I'd say go for it. The notes are excellent, some of the best I've seen on the Sony label, and I've seen most of them. Plus you get the CDs broken up in the same way that they were released on LP. Heck, let me restate, if you are a Gould fan, you probably need this recording, it's such unusual Gould/Bach. Listen to him fight against what Bach wrote, imposing his will upon it. But if you're a fan of the French Suites but not Gould, pass. Go straight for the Rubsam French Suites if you want to hear a performer re-think these pieces in order to make the most of the music instead of reducing it.

 

The preludes of the French suites?

Juozas Rimas wrote (December 27, 2003):
Do French suites have preludes? For instance, Gould's and Rübsam's suites all start with allemandes so I was quite surprised to listen to Hewitt play the prelude to the 4th suite.

At http://www.musicweb.uk.net it is stated Albert Fuller is playing the prelude of the 6th suite.

So, what is up with the preludes? Have they been recently discovered so that Gould, for example, haven't had the opportunity to play them and not just turn them down, like the chromatic fugue?

Anne Smith wrote (December 27, 2003):
[To Juozas Rimas] I have the Peters Urtext. No preludes. They all begin with an Allemande. I have seen pictures of Glenn Gould using Peters Urtext for Bach. I can't remember if he used it for the French Suites.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 27, 2003):
[To Juozas Rimas] Some of the answers to your questions can be found in David Schulenberg's article on the French Suites (BWV 812-817) in the "Oxford Composer Companions: J.S. Bach [Boyd, Oxford University Press, 1999]. The Prelude to Suite 6 is BWV 854/1 which appears in a later copy by one of Bach's students. The older version of all 6 French Suites (Altnickol's copy) has only Allemandes as the initial mvt. in each suite.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 27, 2003):
[To Juozas Rimas] Actually, the earlier version of the Es-Dur franzoesische Suite did have a Praeludium.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 27, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] I think you forgot about the earlier version of the 4th Suite (Es-Dur). That also had a Praeludium.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 27, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut, Jr. stated:
>>I think you forgot about the earlier version of the 4th Suite (Es-Dur). That also had a Praeludium.<<
The NBA lists this prelude as part of a copy that does not have the same claim to authenticity that the earlier (Altnickol) version has. This less authentic version is given the designation BWV 815a to set it apart from the others. Actually, there are a number of copies here that are grouped together as source F. The main source here is F1 which was a copy made by "Michel" in Hamburg under the direction of either CPE Bach or his surviving widow. The other copyists in this group are Rinck, Westphal, and H. Nägeli.

 

Bach's French Suites

Debbie McGee wrote (March 9, 2004):
OK... there is a disagreement of aesthetic tastes here. So...what is everyone's favourite (don't correct... I am Canadian) recording of Bach's French Suites?

Donald Satz wrote (March 9, 2004):
Debbie McGee asked for our favorite recordings of the French Suites. I'd have to go with David Cates/Music & Arts and Davitt Moroney/Virgin Classics. Moroney's version is about the sharpest and most severe I've ever heard. It took me some time to acclimate to the Moroney, but it was certainly worth the effort. Keith Jarrett and Christopher Hogwood are just a little behind.

I prefer each of the above to any piano version on the market.

Santu de Silva wrote (March 10, 2004):
I don't have a recording of the all the French Suites that I like. However, I do have a recording of one French Suite I like: it's the G major suite, on "Bach on Wood", by Brian Slawson. It's noisy, it's rhythmic, and in perfect taste! Everybody must own a copy of this CD, (CBS) and "Bach Beat", also by Brian Slawson, and also on CBS.

Miguel Muelle wrote (March 11, 2004):
On harpsichord, David Cates.
On piano, András Schiff.

 

The French Suites BWV 812-817 - Discography

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 18, 2007):
Following previous discographies of Bach's keyboard works (I&S, Duets, ES, WTC 1, GV), I have added now a comprehensive discography of the French Suites BWV 812-817 (FS). AFAIK, this is the first ever web-discography of this group of works

As previously, I have used every possible source I could find, including web-catalogues, web-stores, web-magazines, artists' websites, labels' websites and other websites, as well as various printed catalogues and my personal collection.

You can find the list of recordings of the FS split into several pages, a page for a decade, through the main page of BWV 812-817 at the BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NVD/BWV812-817.htm
This page includes, as usual, internal links to reviews & discussions, as well as external links to other pages about this work.

The list includes both recordings of complete sets (all 6 suites) and recordings of individual suites. Except of a few cases, recordings of individual movements are not included. All in all, 98 albums with the FS are listed. As in previous discographies in the BCW, each recording is listed only once. All the issues of each recording are presented together. If a performer has recorded the FS more than once, the info includes also the recording number.

Please also notice that for most albums there is a link at the cell of the album title. This link takes you to the page of the soloist, in which you can find other Bach recordings by this artist.

If you are aware of a recording of the FS not listed in these pages, or if you find an error or missing information, please inform me, either through the BRML or to my personal e-mail address.

 

French Suites BWV 812-817: Details
Recordings:
1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019
Comparative Review:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
Reviews of Individual Recordings:
FS - P. Anderszeweski | FS - B. Brookshire | FS - D. Cates [Satz] | FS - D. Cates [Schwartz] | FS - T. Dart | FS - A. Klein | FS - J. Payne | FS - B. Rannou [McElhearn] | FS - B. Rannou [Satz] | Rübsam - Part 1 | FS - M. Suzuki
Discussions:
General - Part 1 | FS - B. Brookshire | FS - D. Cates | FS - G. Gould | FS - B. Rannou

Instrumental Works: Recordings, Reviews & Discussions - Main Page | Order of Discussion
Recording Reviews of Instrumental Works: Main Page | Organ | Keyboard | Solo Instrumental | Chamber | Orchestral, MO, AOF
Performers of Instrumental Works: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links



 

Back to the Top


Last update: July 12, 2010 21:02:25