Irma Issakadze

J.S. Bach: Six Partitas

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Bach's partitas have received renewed attention from pianists, filling in their own individual ways the middle ground between old-school Romantic approaches and historical performance. Pianist Irma Issakadze, from the nation of Georgia, here delivers a strong entry among the group that is unashamedly pianistic but does not treat Bach as a sort of intermediate stage on the way to Chopin. Her approach is fairly close to that of Murray Perahia's Bach recordings, using articulation more than pedal to differentiate the texture and relying on superior technical equipment in producing that range of articulation. Yet Issakadze is no Perahia clone, and several aspects of her readings combine to produce an entirely individual effect. She lays special stress on the slow movements, the sarabandes and allemandes, giving them a free, fantasy-like feel. The dance rhythms are de-emphasized (as indeed they are throughout), but this may have been what made these suites unusual and much remarked-upon in their own time. Issakadze differentiates the suites' individual movements sharply from one another without resorting to unusual tempo decisions or heavy pedaling, which is all to the good. However, the opening movements, variously designated as prelude, fantasia, overture, sinfonia, or toccata, do not fare uniformly well; she tries to give the appropriate weight to the longer ones with stretches of unvaryingly hard keyboard strikes, and the music plods a bit. But with impressive sound from the Oehms label, working in studios at Bavarian Radio, this is a new reading that belongs in Bach keyboard collections.

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