J. S. Bach, Keyboard Partitas 2-4, Cédric Tiberghien, piano (released October 11, 2005)
Harmonia Mundi HMC901869
Tiberghien takes all of the repeats in the three partitas he selected, but with no ornamentation, which misses the whole point of a Baroque repetition. In fact, there appear to be few changes in articulation or shading either. In the allemande of the second partita (C minor, BWV 826), the only real changes I noticed were some 32nd notes in the first section that he slightly flubbed the first time through and got right the second time. That trend continues through pretty much the whole CD. The sarabande here is taken at a droopy pace that does the piece, already somewhat sphinxian, a disservice. He may have chosen the tempo to offer the greatest contrast with the dry, crazed rendition of the rondeau that follows it, as well as the marvelously delineated three voices of the driven capriccio that concludes this partita.
The third partita (A minor, BWV 827) opens with a two-voice fantasia, to which Tiberghien applies the same dry and rhythmic treatment, one of the qualities I very much admire about some of Glenn Gould's Bach. In the partitas (explained very well by musicologist Yo Tomita), the change of name appears to have liberated Bach from the stricter compositional style of the "suites," and he mixes in all sorts of movements with more traditional dances. At the same time, amid pieces that have a more orchestral sensibility, the allemande of this partita retains the lute-like stile brisé, negotiated with great finesse by Tiberghien. However, in some of the faster movements like the three-voice gigue, while Tiberghien's technique is always impressive, it also communicates a harshness of touch that is occasionally troublesome.
Oddly, Tiberghien gives a more pianistic than orchestral performance of the French ouverture of the fourth partita (D major, BWV 828), up through the final page or so, when he extends the pedal point A a couple measures beyond what Bach wrote in the score. Another inexplicably slow tempo and full repeats extend this allemande to a length of 11:37, quite pénible. After the first listening, I usually skipped most of it to get to the charming courante, which is full of verve. The sarabande is even more lifeless than the allemande, stretched out to 7:37. Since it's a rounded binary form, you hear that opening two bars of the A section four times, and there's only so much Tiberghien can do to make it interesting at this tempo, except make it slower and more fragile, which is essentially what he does, to soporific effect.
There is some great playing on this disc, and Tiberghien is clearly a talent. However, I cannot imagine myself really returning to this disc again and again, and it would be pretty low on my list of renditions of these pieces. I have heard better things about his 2003 disc, Beethoven: Variations pour Piano, also from Harmonia Mundi.