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GRAMOPHONE (07/2022)
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Divine Art

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Reviewer :
Mark Seow

This is not a recording for the faint-hearted. Anyone expecting soothing, bubble-bath arpeggiations from the Prelude of the First Suite is in for a shock. Marina Tarasova’s performance is gritty, windswept and growlingly confident. Then the Allemande, with full-bodied opulence, which turns to a crazed, tunnel vision in the closing Gigue. Interestingly, at some point during the Suite the shock factor does wear off: light and shade emerge between the gruff and intense. These are performances that demand your attention.

Take, for instance, the Allemande of the Second Suite. It’s a slap in the face. One problem with such consistent electricity – thrashing string crossings and high-voltage vibrato – is that harmonies are coloured with more or less equal intensity. Bravura in spades, certainly, but I prefer more spelling out of the harmonic language in my Bach. A similar issue clouds the Gavottes in the Sixth Suite. Tarasova puts so much energy into making the chords sound impressive that the overall impression is not of resonance but rather of labour. The mechanics of chordal work get in the way of the melodic line and flow; the music does not sing.

This sound world can certainly be addictive. The Sarabande of the Third Suite is rich in mahogany. Intensely sonorous, it can make other performances seem feeble and thin in comparison. But this approach goes far too far for my taste in the same suite’s Allemande. Dynamic contrasts are drawn in caricature and the phrasing difficult to follow (dare I say illogical?). Need an allemande be so aggressive? Alisa Weilerstein’s recent take is thoughtful, plaintive even – and so would seem to answer with a firm ‘no’.

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