Mahan Esfahani’s recording of Bach’s Partitas is “uniquely captivating”, “a revelation”

23 August 2021

On the 28th May 2021, the latest disc in Mahan Esfahani's Bach cycle was released on Hyperion, this time of his Six Partitas published as Clavier-Übung I. The result received widespread acclaim, with critics lauding Esfahani’s interpretive flair, expressive freedom and meticulous scholarship. A selection of reviews can be read below:

“Mr. Esfahani renders [Bach’s keyboard partitas] with super-charged technical flair and a point of view…The harpsichordist’s performance of the third partita goes from strength to strength: touchingly wistful in the Allemande, stately in the Sarabande and vibrant in the Burlesca, where imaginative registration choices for some chords accent the section’s jaunty, humorous character.” - Sarah Jepson, Wall Street Journal
“Part of the startling immediacy and modernity of Mahan Esfahani's performances comes from the range of sounds his modern harpsichord can produce, with its rich bass register … but also the breadth of Esfahani's imagination, his sense of theatre, his willingness to explore and experiment. It might be too much for some, but it'll be a revelation to others.” - BBC Record Review
“Some of the best playing here can be found in Esfahani’s improvisatory and beautifully characterised account of the fifth Partita’s Praeambulum—which again points ahead to the sixth Partita’s opening Toccata, as thrilling an account as you’re likely to hear anywhere.” - Will Yeoman, Limelight Magazine, 4.5*
“It’s refreshing to hear the fugue of the Sixth Partita’s Toccata so beautifully rounded and embellished, as well as how Esfahani relishes the Sarabande’s dissonances…Clearly his pursuit of scholarship never lapses into pedantry either as performer or annotator...There’s no questioning Esfahani’s inquiring musical mind and absolute mastery of his instrument.” - Jed Distler, Gramophone Magazine
“All keyboard life is here, and they raise plenty of issues for a performer. Esfahani is keen to tackle them head on, and his liner notes make for required reading … Trevor Pinnock (on Hänssler) or Richard Egarr (Harmonia Mundi) offer less idiosyncratic readings, but then Esfahani has never been one to play it safe. BWV 825’s ‘Menuet 1’ has the solidity of a bürgermeister mindful of his respectability, but its da capo positively boogies, darting embellishments doing the not-so-heavy lifting... At its pungent best, Esfahani’s joie de vivre can be uniquely captivating.” - Paul Riley, BBC Music Magazine, performance **** recording *****

"I’ve always admired Mahan Esfahani as one of the finest keyboard players of his generation…These are compelling and imaginative readings, both bold and convincing, captured in superb sound." - Stephen Greenbank, MusicWeb International
"Esfahani is a passionate performer rather than a scholarly purist and chooses the readings, like his choice of instrument, that make most musical sense to him… I recommend this recording not just for its well-argued and committed performances but for Esfahani’s challenging approach. He is on the way to recording all Bach’s keyboard for Hyperion, and if you like his style they will be well worth watching out for." - David Stancliffe, Early Music Review

It marks the second disc in his Bach recording cycle for Hyperion, following the 2019 release of Bach's Toccatas, which was awarded four- and five-star reviews across major publications. Previously he recorded Goldberg Variations for Deutsche Grammophon in 2017, which was recently named one of the best recordings of the work by BBC Music Magazine. In the 20/21 season, Esfahani continued his Bach cycle at Wigmore Hall, performing Suites, French Suites, Fantasias, and book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, with the latter livestream described as "a mighty achievement" and "a gripping experience". He also performed a "delicious" and "transcendent" Goldberg Variations in Leipzig for Cal Performances in January 2021, and again for a live audience at Chiltern Arts in Marlow in May 2021.

For more information on the new disc, and to get a copy, visit the Hyperion website here. To read the full reviews, click here.

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