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Wolfgang Rübsam (Piano)

Bach Keyboard Recordings from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 4

K-10

J.S. Bach: English Suites Nos. 4-6 BWV 808-811

English Suites No. 4-6 BWV 809-811 [23:02, 26:10, 27:36]

Wolfgang Rübsam (Piano)

Naxos

Jun, Aug, Sep 1995

CD / TT: 77:00

Recorded at Orum Hall, Valparaiso, Indiana, USA.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

Donald Satz wrote (July 24, 2001):
Comparative Versions:
Andras Schiff - Decca 421640 - TT 67:48 (4-6)
Glenn Gould - Sony 42268 - TT 58:41 (4-6)

Just to recap a little, the three previous Rübsam discs I reviewed are excellent recordings, particularly the discs of the Partitas. I'm getting to the point where I expect outstanding performances from Rübsam, and he does not disappoint in the these three English Suites.

English Suite No. 4 - Matters go splendidly for Rübsam in the first three movements; although his Courante is quite slow, he provides all the benefits of Gould and Schiff but with a much wider range of emotions and more distinct voice interplay. Rübsam's Sarabande is lovely and poignant, but it can't match the magical ornamentation that Gould provides. There are no problems with Rübsam's Gigue which ripples with excitement.

My only reservation with Rübsam's Suite No. 4 resides with his Menuet series. As with the Prelude and Courante, Rübsam slows down the proceedings. However, in this case I don't feel that any benefits flow from the decision. The reading just sounds less vital and youthful than either Gould or Schiff. On balance, Rübsam's performance of Suite No. 4 is excellent. Overall, I prefer Gould largely for his exquisite and commanding Sarabande and ceremonial Menuet.

English Suite No. 5 - If any situation brings home to me the value of having multiple versions of the same work, it's the Gould and Rübsam performances. Although outstanding in the previous Suite, Gould really hits his stride in No. 5. He is thrilling, insistent, driven to resolve, and imaginative with his rhythms. Gould's concluding Gigue is a rock of power and excitement; in the first theme, it seems that he engages in a deconstruction which is then rebuilt in the inverted second theme. Rübsam is not much concerned with thrills or momentum. His tempos are relaxing when the music can accomodate, the interpretations are expansive and thought-provoking, and the whiff of improvisation is usually in the air. At the same time, Rübsam delivers
plenty of power in the Gigue, although the conception is far different than Gould's. In the Prelude, Allemande, Courante, and Passepied series, it's like listening to different music. Although I have my personal preferences, both versions are essential to my library and highly treasured.

English Suite No. 6 - Another outstanding performance by Rübsam. He equals the exceptional Schiff Prelude with a wide level of expressiveness. His Allemande and Courante are leisurely and incisively performed; the Gavotte II is delicate and pristine. Although Rübsam does not deliver the power that others provide to the Gigue, he offers gradations of dynamics that are compelling.

Don's Conclusions: This Rübsam disc is another essential acquisition to add to the previous three Rübsam discs I reviewed. Overall, we get no mainstream interpretations from Rübsam. We also do not get performances with high priority on drive, momentum, and excitement. Rübsam's approach is to think through each movement; I usually get the feeling that he's thinking as he plays. Improvisatory elements are strong, and Rusam never slights the poetry and depth of Bach's music. Rübsam's Allemandes and Courantes are particularly illuminating and memorable. At premium price, these four recordings would be a 'steal'; at Naxos prices, they are the deal of the century. There are still a few more Rübsam/Bach solo keyboard recordings from Naxos to obtain, and I intend to acquire them promptly. I recommend you do the same.

 

Feedback to the Review

John Thomas wrote (July 24, 2001):
[To Donald Satz] I just bought this disc over the weekend and just had my first opportunity to put it on this morning. Then I opened my browser and there was Don's review in my mailbox. The Sarabande of #4 is playing as I write this. Nice serendipity and a lovely addition to my Bach collection. Gotta get the Partitas next.

Juozas Rimas wrote (August 4, 2001):
< There are still a few more Rübsam/Bach solo keyboard recordings from Naxos to obtain, and I intend to acquire them promptly. I recommend you do the same. >
I've listened to all the 15 full sound clips of the Rübsam's Sinfonias on Naxos:
http://web02.hnh.com/scripts/newreleases/naxos_cat.asp?item_code=8.550960

I got a mixed impression: at first I was charmed with his pensive wavy "jazz-like" playing style. But I continued listening and almost all remaining sinfonias appeared to be played... in the same manner.

I don't want to generalize but I do think that Rübsam's sinfonias are are more similar to each other than Gould's, for instance. I prefer contrast between, eg sinfonias Nr. 2 and Nr. 15 and Rübsam hardly gives any contrast. Although hearing Rübsam's 15th sinfonia for the first time was a great discovery.

Donald Satz wrote (August 7, 2001):
Juozas Rimas writes:
< I've listened to all the 15 sound clips of the Rübsam's Sinfonias on Naxos...... I got a mixed impression: at first I was charmed with his pensive wavy "jazz-like" playing style. But I continued listening and almost all remaining sinfonias appeared to be played... in the same manner. >
I have not yet acquired Rübsam's recording of the Inventions/Sinfonias, but I did listen to a few of the cited sound clips. I understand the concern expressed by Juozas, but I'll reserve judgment until I have the disc and have played it on my best audio equipment. I noticed with the Rübsam discs I do possess that they were much more rewarding on my best system than in my car or CD-ROM.

 

English Suites BWV 806-811: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | English - Perahia Vol. 2 | English - Watchorn | Rübsam – Part 4

Wolfgang Rübsam: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach Organ Works from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 1 | Bach Organ Works from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 2 | Bach Organ Works from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 3 | Bach Keyboard Recordings from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 1 | Bach Keyboard Recordings from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 2 | Bach Keyboard Recordings from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 3 | Bach Keyboard Recordings from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 4

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Last update: żOctober 13, 2006 ż13:16:28