Five Pianists Playing Bach

I have enjoyed the recent video compilations of pianists playing the opening measures of Schubert’s last sonata, and Chopin’s ‘Butterfly’ Etude, which have come to me via people I follow on Twitter. Thus inspired, I have decided to add my own offering, this time of pianists playing the Toccata from Bach’s 6th Partita BWV 830. I have been learning this piece for the last 3 months, and will be performing it in a concert next weekend. My benchmark recording has been Murray Perahia’s, but the following films offer some very interesting interpretations, each of which has its own merits. As one of the comments on Sokolov’s performance says, “there is no right or wrong way to Bach….” and these films demonstrate that very clearly, with widely varying tempos and touches. No one version is “right” or “wrong”: each offers interesting insights, and each has informed my practising of this piece in some way or other, whether the flourishes of the opening, arpeggiated figure, the true “toccare” measures (bars 3-4, 7, for example), the ornamentation, or the character of the fugue. The harpischord and organ clips are ‘wild cards’ in some ways, yet they give an idea of how the piece might have sounded to Bach, played in the chamber, or church.