Sergey Schepkin

Bach: The Six French Suites

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AllMusic Review by

Russian American pianist Sergey Schepkin tends to have a polarizing effect with his Bach recordings, which might be described as being like Glenn Gould without the sharp edge. In Schepkin's Bach, listeners will hear Bach, but they will also hear a lot of Schepkin; his readings have a consistent and distinctive surface that they'll be able to recognize after sampling just a small amount. He does not use a lot of pedal, but his recordings are intensely pianistic, with a clean, consistent articulation that does not let the music vary much from movement to movement and piece to piece. He tends to add a good deal of ornamentation, however, and for that reason this set of the six so-called (not by Bach) French Suites makes a good place to start with this unorthodox and, for many, compelling pianist: the case for ornamenting the repeats in these dances, which exist in multiple versions that seem to suggest that Bach himself was fooling with the ornamentation possibilities, is a strong one. With this recording Schepkin moves from the small Ongaku label to Steinway & Sons, and there is no denying the sheer pianistic beauty of Schepkin's playing in the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903, even as the work's usual grandeur is pared way back. Another pianist to whom he might be compared is Vladimir Feltsman, and it would seem that a rather idiosyncratic Russian school of Bach playing -- athletic, hypnotic, counter to type -- has emerged. How listeners feel about it is likely to be an individual reaction.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
French Suite No. 1 in D minor, BWV 812
1 3:01 Amazon
2 2:12 Amazon
3 2:41 Amazon
4 1:00 Amazon
5 1:43
6 3:23 Amazon
French Suite No. 2 in C minor, BWV 813
7 2:42 Amazon
8 1:37 Amazon
9 2:49 Amazon
10 1:07 Amazon
11 1:18 Amazon
12 1:38
13 2:01 Amazon
French Suite No. 3 in B minor, BWV 814
14 2:33 Amazon
15 2:14 Amazon
16 2:54 Amazon
17 1:19 Amazon
18 0:57 Amazon
19 1:22
20 1:49 Amazon
French Suite No. 4 in E flat major, BWV 815
21 2:52 Amazon
22 1:52 Amazon
23 2:44 Amazon
24 1:07 Amazon
25 1:23 Amazon
26 0:46 Amazon
27 2:14 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
French Suite No. 5 in G major, BWV 816
1 2:22 Amazon
2 1:37 Amazon
3 4:39 Amazon
4 1:03 Amazon
5 1:08 Amazon
6 1:44 Amazon
7 2:58 Amazon
Prelude and Fugue, for keyboard No. 9, BWV 854
8 1:14
French Suite No. 6 in E major, BWV 817
9 2:13 Amazon
10 1:21 Amazon
11 3:22 Amazon
12 0:58 Amazon
13 1:19 Amazon
14 1:20 Amazon
15 1:12 Amazon
16 2:10 Amazon
Fantasia and Fugue in A minor, BWV 904
17 3:45 Amazon
18 5:17 Amazon
19 2:56 Amazon
20 5:07 Amazon
Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903
21 7:26
22 4:26 Amazon
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