Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Johann Sebastian Bach, András Schiff|
Bach: Solo Keyboard Works [Box Set]
Listen to Samples
It's the counterpoint, my friend!
Y.P. | Mount Messiaen, Utah | 08/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In this "golden era of classical music recordings", there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of recordings of Bach's solo keyboard works available in the market, using instruments from the harpsichord (with 1 or 2 manuals), organ, clavichord and early fortepiano to the modern grand piano. I have listened to many of them. Truth be told, even though each good performer brings out different aspects of these great works, not many are worth repeated listening. To my ears, this set stands out among the distinguished performances mainly in 2 ways: its elucidation of counterpoint and its fusion of the Historically-Informed Performance (HIP) practice with the expressive devices of the modern grand pianos. In fact, these 2 points are most closely related. The enumeration is merely for the convenience of exposition.
First, Andras Schiff's elucidation of the counterpoint is unrivaled, not even by harpsichordists with rigorous musicological background. The purists will chide me for allowing Bach's solo keyboard music be played on a modern piano. I love harpsichord recordings of these works too: from Wanda Landowska to Kenneth Gilbert, Davitt Moroney, and Robert Hill...., they have long inhabited my music shelves and musical life. Many of them are truly wonderful. However, on a good modern grand piano, Bach's n-part counterpoint can have n different tone colors, if played under masterful hands. In terms of this, Schiff is unsurpassed.
Another thing Schiff does superbly was his fusion of the grand piano's expressive devices with what he learned from the HIP movement. I haven't read elsewhere that Schiff has consciously studied HIP, but he must have. HIP harpsichordists have been (re)searching and exploring for decades the "affective ways" to play polyphonic music by subtle rubato, different articulation, varieties of touch, and rhythmical independence of the parts, partly to offset the lack of the expressive devices which are only available to the modern grand pianos: the broad range of dynamics and the infinite varieties of tone color shadings. What Schiff pioneered in these recordings is to fuse these two, and the result is simply mesmerizing.(*)
Other pianists and harpsichordists could be more profound, more insightful, more exciting, or more "historically accurate". However, to my ears, Schiff is still unrivaled on these 2 important fronts. (For a comparison, listen to any of Angela Hewitt's Bach solo "piano" works, e.g. the Well-Tempered Clavier.)
The price of the set is also right, although the readers are advised to look around for a better price from European vendors.(**)
Very highly recommended.
Update: I am very happy to discover, after writing this review, that Sergio Vartolo, a harpsichordist/organist/conductor, has very high esteem of Schiff's piano performance. [...]
(*) Here is a suggestion for the purists. Play Schiff's WTC at very low volume in the dead of the night. You might discover that it's not completely unlike the sound you are familiar with.
(**) This set can be purchased from amazon.de for a fraction of the prices offered here. ASIN: B00000IP73 or ASIN: B001DTA8QS."