JS BACH Partitas No 2 & 6. Toccata BWV911

Fray follows concertos with solo Bach for Virgin

Author: 
Jed Distler

Bach_Partitas No. 2, BWV826 & No.6, BWV830; Toccata BWV911

  • (6) Partitas, No. 2 in C minor, BWV826
  • (6) Partitas, No. 6 in E minor, BWV830
  • (7) Toccatas, C minor, BWV911

The virtues of David Fray’s 2007 D major Partita and D minor French Suite recording (7/07) are present in his most recent solo foray into Bach’s music. His C minor Partita (No 2) stands out for its diversified articulations and sensitive melodic pointing, although back-to-back comparisons reveal stronger polyphonic give and take between the hands from Murray Perahia and András Schiff in his ECM remake. However, Fray’s upbeat and playful romp through the final two movements might be described as a leaner, more line-oriented Argerich.

Fray also digs deepest in the E minor Partita’s Sarabande, spinning out the long lines as if they were a vocal aria in one of the Passions. Indeed, the split-second timing and almost disembodied timbre he brings to the soft dotted chords are worth this CD’s full list price. His remaining movements don’t quite match the Sarabande’s rarefied level: compare, for example, Fray’s slightly dragging, uneventful final Gigue alongside Perahia’s more shapely, urgent inflections of the main theme or Hewitt’s lilting transparency throughout and you’ll hear what I mean.

However, Fray is at his consistent best in his forward-moving, assiduously unified and gorgeously controlled C minor Toccata, crowned by an intelligently shaped fugal finale that retains its buoyancy and momentum without the least slowing down or thickening. The booklet-notes arguably overestimate Fray’s stature as a Bach interpreter, yet they offer succinct and detailed musical descriptions. The bright, resonant and clear engineering also deserves praise.

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