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French Suites BWV 812-817
Played by Blandine Rannou

K-1

Bach: Suite Françaises

French Suites, BWV 812-817 [16:19, 15:13, 16:33, 15:22, 10:10, 17:13]

Blandine Rannou (Harpsichord)

Zig Zag Territories

Sep 2001

2-CD / TT: 101:13

Recorded at l'Englise de Bon Secours à Paris Xie, France.
Review: French Suites by Blandine Rannou
Review: Blandine Rannou Plays Bach's French Suites
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

Rannou's French & English Suites [was: Recommend English Suites recording]

Pierce Drew wrote (May 19, 2004):
Riccardo Nughes wrote:
<< I'd also appreciate any recommendations for a version of these played on harpsichord or clavichord. >>
< I'm interested in any opinions about English (& French) Suites by B.Ranneau on Zig-Zag Territoires. I have only the Leonhardt recordings and I'd like to buy a new one. >
I have Rannou's French and English Suites recordings and am quite happy with both. For me, they both offer new insights into these works. And isn't that that why a person buys any recording?

Rannou's French Suites are especially good both in terms of interpretive grace and recorded sound. I became aware of this recording when Kirk praised it highly (about 1 1/2 ago on this list) -- he said it might be the best harpsichord recording of the French Suites. These works have never been among my favorites in Bach's keyboard oeuvre, but Rannou has helped me appreciate and enjoy them more.

You can find sound samples of the French Suites at amazon.de (but the recording is 10 euros cheaper at amazon.fr): Amazon.de

The English Suites, on the other hand, are among my most-beloved keyboard works: some of the preludes and
gigues contain the most virtuosic passages found anywhere in Bach. I have many recordings of these works, and would second Brad's recommendation of the Parmentier and Jaccottet.

In terms of the Rannou, I think her recording fares quite well in the face of the others. As with the French Suites, the recorded sound is crystal clear and balanced -- not too resonant, not too dry. Although her recording is not as dazzling as Rousset's -- another new English Suites recording that, IMO, any lover of this music should not be without -- her readings are consistently engaging. There is a fine balance here -- it is as if she savors each movement, and so there is no sense of an inexorable rush toward the suite's finale.

There are sound samples of the English Suites at towerrecords.com:
http://www.towerrecords.com/product.aspx?pfid=2918120

Hope these comments help,

Leila Batarseh wrote (May 19, 2004):
Pierce Drew wrote:
< I have Rannou's French and English Suites recordings and am quite happy with both. For me, they both offer new insights into these works. And isn't that that why a person buys any recording? >
Is it true as I think I heard somewhere or other that Rannou's tempos are unusually slow? (Perhaps this contributes to the "grace" that you find in these recordings?)

Pierce Drew wrote (May 19, 2004):
[To Leila Batarseh] I wouldn't say that Rannou's tempi are "unusually slow." But I guess that depends on what is meant by "slow."

Certainly her pacing in the English Suites is slower than Rousset -- but then some think Rousset too brisk.

In the French Suites, I don't think her tempi are are much slower than K. Gilbert or G. Leonhardt, but I haven't done a careful comparison.

In general -- for both sets -- I think her pacing is well-judged. Perhaps I chose "grace" to describe her French Suites because the works themselves are closer to the emerging galante style (i.e., less contrapuntally dense) than Bach's other keyboard compositions. As a whole, I like her playing for its clarity.

But perhaps the best answer to your question about tempos is to judge for yourself. I included links in my previous response to amazon.de (French Suites) and towerrecords.com (English Suites) which have sound
samples for every track on both sets. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

Henri Sanguinetti wrote (May 20, 2004):
Pierce Drew wrote:
< I have Rannou's French and English Suites recordings and am quite happy with both. For me, they both offer new insights into these works. And isn't that that why a person buys any recording? >
I am not a specialist, but I love harpsichord. In particular those recordings where you feel like being in magically ordered forest of sounds. I listen to musik hours after hours, commencing with harpsichord and Bach, finishing the day with opera and contemporary. One of my major criterion is based on the length of time (in term of days or weeks) that I can listen to the same interpretation (once a day that is) without being tired of it. For The Suites Françaises, I can tell That Rannou came first. For the Suites Anglaises there was Leonhardt, I tried Rannou without being convinced, witout hesitation Rousset comes ahead. May be not in the question, but For the Goldberg one version has overcome all existing ones: it is the one by the young Celine Frisch. This is always by the standard mentioned above, which may not mean much for most of you.

Pierce Drew wrote (May 20, 2004):
Henri Sanguinetti wrote:
< I am not a specialist, but I love harpsichord. In particular those recordings where you feel like being in magically ordered forest of sounds. >
Nice metaphor, Henri. Many have compared Bach's music to church architecture, but I really like this notion of a "magically ordered forest of sounds." As much as there is logic and a constructed order in Bach, there is an organic wholeness that brims over with life itself.

< One of my major criterion is based on the length of time (in term of days or weeks) that I can listen to the same interpretation (once a day that is) without being tired of it. >
I can relate to this criterion. Typically, I will be into one or two works at a given time, and wear out my favorite recordings of those works. My wife thinks I'm nuts, and is glad when I "move on" to another phase.

< For The Suites Françaises, I can tell That Rannou came first. >
Rannou is superb in these suites, no? This recording "opened up" these works for me.

< For the Suites Anglaises there was Leonhardt, I tried Rannou without being convinced, witout hesitation Rousset comes ahead. >
I was less convinced by the Leonhardt. Perhaps it was the recorded sound (in the Seon reissue) -- there was a "heavy" resonance that distracted me from the music. I like Rannou much better -- especially how she treasures each movement.

The Rousset is brilliant, yes. His playing is always exciting (I don't buy the facile dismissal that it is "superficial") and brings out the virtuoso in Bach.

Donald commented on the sound -- it is a bit "distant" and resonant, but is not problematic for me. It could have been better though -- Rousset's recordings for Decca / L'Oiseau Lyre capture the harpsichord better than the Ambroisie.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 21, 2004):
Pierce Drew wrote:
< I have Rannou's French and English Suites recordings and am quite happy with both. For me, they both offer new insights into these works. And isn't that that why a person buys any recording? >
Absolutely.

< Hope these comments help >
Thanks, they certainly do. Will check out those sound samples (I wonder why Rannou's French Suites is 10 euros cheaper at www,amazon.fr than in Germany! I know that Zig-Zag Territoires is a French label but.....)

 

French Suites BWV 812-817: Details
Recordings:
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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

Blandine Rannou: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
French Suites by Blandine Rannou | Blandine Rannou Plays Bach's French Suites
Discussions of Instrumental Recordings:
French Suites BWV 812-817 - played by B. Rannou

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