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Bach: The Six Partitas / Sergey Schepkin

Release Date: 07/08/2016
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30062 Spars Code: DDD
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach Performer:  Sergey Schepkin Number of Discs: 2

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partitas, BWV 825-830, were published between 1726 and 1730, and were the first of his works to be published under his direction. They were among the last of his keyboard suites to be composed, and are by far the most technically demanding.

A Russian born American pianist, Sergey Schepkin is based in Massachusetts, and is a leading authority on the interpretation of Bach’s work. This release is Schepkin’s second recording with Steinway & Sons.

“Mr. Schepkin’s technical skills and innate virtuosity are integral in bringing the Baroque embellishments and ornamentation to his Steinway piano and to the ears of a modern listener.” -- AXS

“Russian-American pianist Sergey
Read more Schepkin leaves you in no doubt why Bach is at the heart of his repertoire.”
-- Gramophone

R E V I E W S:

"This beautiful playing belongs firmly in the Russia style of Bach playing, it seems to me. I am recalling, in particular, the Bach of Vladimir Feltsman, Sviatoslav Richter, and even the rather obscure recordings of Grigory Ginsburg, all of whom perform the music in an unabashedly pianistic way, with great emphasis on nuanced dynamic phrasing and rich, colorful tonality... This is a far cry from so-called authentic Bach playing, but it is immensely satisfying and reflects the genius of Bach with deep reverence... I highly endorse Schepkin’s glowing rendition of this timeless music."

-- Peter Burwasser, Fanfare

"Schepkin takes particular delight in the Allemandes and redefines Bach's 'Tempo di minuetto' in No. 5, tripping the light fantastic on his multicoloured descendant of the single-manual instrument for which Bach wrote the Partitas... Despite his formidable Steinway, Schepkin has a harpsichordist's feel for the magic of resonance born of slight, brief repetition...The music was recorded with sumptuous delicacy of colour in Jordan Hall at Boston's New England Conservatory."

-- Laurence Vittes, Gramophone

"Mr. Schepkin presents The Six Partitas with clarity and with a penetrating and bristling piano sound that is reproduced with a discerning and intensely active interpretation...the beauty, mastery of compositional technique and Schepkin’s virtuoso treatment of the piano keyboard, grace, elegance and depth are impeccably recorded here for your listening pleasure."

-- AXS [7/12/16]

"Sergey Schepkin first recorded Bach’s Partitas in the late 1990s for the Ongaku label. Nearly 20 years later, Schepkin has rerecorded the Partitas, and his conceptions have evolved in many respects... Schepkin’s way with No. 5 has matured with age, gaining palpable shape and direction... the Allemande [from No. 6] has gained considerable expressive profile over time and reveals Schepkin at his best....Schepkin’s interpretations have clearly evolved and matured, and deserve a place very close to the top of the list."

-- Jed Distler,

"The Russians were never very keen on Bach," said Russian violinist Ilya Gringolts (himself a fine Bach violinist). "Their (well, our!) Bach has a tendency to sound a bit on the never-ending side -- a lot of melodic lines, shapeless." Russian-American pianist Sergey Schepkin seems ready to erase this perception with a beautifully recorded series of Bach favorites on the U.S. Steinway & Sons label. His technical skills, always impressive, are in full display on this double album of partitas, with a variety of articulation in the fast movements that makes them seem more "pianistic" than they really are: Schepkin has drawn comparisons to Glenn Gould, and he's done it without using a lot of pedal. The slow movements, with a good deal of ornamentation and rhythmic freedom, are perhaps the most characteristic; sample one of the sarabandes, perhaps that of the Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BWV 825, for a taste. Schepkin in the past has seemed remote, but here he is personal, changeable, and it is András Schiff, perhaps his major competition in this field, who seems to have a harder edge. In general, Schepkin steers far from the dance origin of these pieces. Schepkin's readings may make different impressions on different listeners, but these are major statements in the catalog of Bach recordings on the piano.

-- AllMusic Guide

Even if your only exposure to Bach’s great keyboard works played on the modern piano is one or another of Glenn Gould’s recordings of the Goldberg Variations (there are three, you know), you really should consider buying this new set of the Partitas on Steinway & Sons’ CD label. Don’t be scared off by the technical term “Partita.” All that means is that these are multi-movement works made up of parts; specifically, sections that usually were named after dances. Bach’s contemporaries would have understood the dance names such as “Sarabande” as giving an idea as to the tempo and feeling of each segment. The liner notes make the important point that this is not music to dance to; it is music for its own sake, about the idea or the ideal of dancing.

Sergey Schepkin’s playing is technically as good as anyone else’s out there, and his interpretations are a moveable feast—by turns fleet, witty, and playful; or, delicate, subtle, and pensive (or even serious or solemn). This music can mind its own business in the background at Campari time, but it is also worth your undivided attention late at night.

-- John Marks, The Tannhäuser Gate Read less