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Genre: Classical | Label: Simax | Catalog Number: 1329
The English Suites, BWV 806-811, are a set of six suites written by Johann Sebastian Bach for harpsichord and generally thought to be the earliest of his 19 suites for keyboard, the others being the six French Suites, BWV 812-817, the 6 Partitas, BWV 825-830 and the Overture in the French style, BWV 831. Originally, their date of composition was thought to have been between 1718 and 1720, but more recent research suggests that the composition was likely earlier, around 1715, while the composer was living in Weimar. As introductory préludes, Bach incorporated a set of five concerto movements which he composed in the wake of his revelatory discovery in 1713 of the concertos of Vivaldi, Marcello and other Italian composers. To these he added a sequence of French dances, often combining elements of the two contrasting national styles within a single movement. Ketil Haugsand is a Norwegian harpsichordist and conductor. In 1975 he was awarded the Prix d'Excellence at the Amsterdam conservatory, where he studied under Gustav Leonhardt.
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer: Ketil Haugsand "
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. "
- Suite No.1 in A major, BWV 806
- Suite No.2 in A minor, BWV 807
- Suite No.3 in G minor, BWV 808