Sergey Schepkin

Bach: The Six Partitas

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"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 AndrĂ¡s 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.

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