During the 1720s, Bach grouped his harpsichord suites into two sets of six each and assembled a third, that was newly composed. These compositions have survived as the English Suites, French Suites and Partitas. Only the Partitas were published in Bach's lifetime. The English Suites are the earliest of these keyboard works and three of them are the focus of this recording by pianist Murray Perahia.
There is nothing especially "English" about these works and their misleading title is one that was never known by Bach. Dubious titles notwithstanding, the works are marvels of invention that marry intellectually challenging contrapuntal lines to sublime melodies. Perahia wisely says the suites are "heart and mind connected."
Perahia dazzles in this music. He excels in the twisting contrapuntal complexities of each suite: particularly the Prelude of the Second Suite and the Gigue of the Fourth. Perahia also revels in the melodic splendor of the elegiac slower movements, his playing of the Allemande of the Fifth Suite a high point of the disc. Perahia's Bach is yet another jewel in the crown of this wonderful pianist.