Classical music on CD: Bach - English Suites Nos 1-6 Gustav Leohardt (harpsichord) Recorded 1973 Seon/Sony SB2K 62949, two discs

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The Independent Culture
Wolf Erichson launched Seon back in the early Seventies, principally to record "the emerging stars of the early music movement". The label survived for roughly 10 years and has since enjoyed only a sporadic presence on the domestic CD market, which is something of a pity given the exceptional quality of its recordings. However, Sony Classical has now decided to supplement its own estimable full-price early music label (Vivarte) with low-price reissues of key Seon titles. First releases include choral music under Konrad Ruhland, a bench-mark set of Brandenburg Concertos with Frans Bruggen, and Gustav Leonhardt's exquisite 1973 recording of Bach's richly inventive English Suites.

Recommended sampling points are legion. Try, for example, the opening flourish of the First Suite's Prelude, the way it trips into action, easily, elegantly and with absolute control. Or there are the noble Sarabandes (one to each Suite), mostly with fulsome spread chords fanning the main melody line. Leonhardt launches into the Second Suite's fugal Prelude with unforced enthusiasm, brings a lilting gaiety to its spiralling Gigue and is extraordinarily graceful in the Fourth Suite's Allemande. Everywhere one senses a precisely focused musical mind, a sort of interpretative chivalry, courteous but strong and with an intuitive understanding of Baroque style.

Robert Cowan

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