Dollhouse Bach: Thurston Dart’s French Suites

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 6

In the original sleeve notes accompanying his 1962 recording of Bach’s French Suites on the clavichord, Thurston Dart explained that he chose to leave out the repeats in order to accommodate all six suites on a single LP. Consequently, certain movements seem as if they are over before they begin. Yet despite the L’Oiseau-Lyre production’s close microphone placement that renders the Thomas Goff model instrument as a cross between a banjo and a Hawaiian guitar, Dart sensitively communicates the music’s charm and intimacy. His shaping of the counterpoint takes advantage of the clavichord’s limited capacity for dynamic inflections as well as vibrato. Indeed, Dart’s use of vibrato proves most affecting and vocally oriented in the Sarabandes, especially in the Third B minor Suite. He’s basically a gentle player who eschews ebullience and ear-catching ornamentation, favoring generally moderate tempos that keep the music afloat. I pull down this disc when I want to imagine Bach served up in a dollhouse, or, more realistically, in a cozy drawing room.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Murray Perahia (on piano – DG)

  • Thurston Dart (clavichord)

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