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This remarkable CD, recorded during a 2000 concert in Baden Baden, was rightfully graded a rosette in the 2003-04 edition of the Penguin Guide to Classical CDs.
Elena Kuschnerova is not a name familiar to many classical music fans. She was instructed in Russia and now lives in Germany. This Bach album is extraordinary, showing a command of the keyboard with technique to burn and musical understanding beyond her years.
Yet, throughout the concert, the pianist eschews flashiness or technique for its own sake. She is consistently at the service of J.S. Bach and his intentions are completely fulfilled in ways that many far more famous pianists cannot match. All the while, her musical intelligence shows like a beacon on a pitch black evening.
The linchpin in this concert is the monumental Partita No. 6 in E minor, one of Bach's most dramatic keyboard creations that is every bit the equal of Beethoven's final all is dust piano sonatas.
From the dramatic opening scale of the Toccata to the closing bars of the seventh movement Gigue, Kuschnerova never fails to entertain, delight and enthrall with her combined command, technique and understanding. Far from being a traversal a Tocatta and six French dances, she creates an organic entity that carries the listener with its sweep and grandeur. Her playing has an inevitability that projects every phrase, every moment, every note in the score as being correct, dramatic and dignified.
The other pieces on this concert -- a French suite, a Toccata and the famous Italian Concerto -- are all done equally well in sound that is exemplary for a concert recording. On the basis of this CD, Kuschnerova can be cast in league with the greatest Bach exponents of this or any other era -- Richter, Gould and Tureck -- and is miles ahead of Bach contemporaries like Richard Goode, Maria Joao Pires and Pyotr Anderszewski. She is a better technician, a better colorist and more inclined to drama than Canada's Angela Hewitt, the reigning first lady of Bach in Great Britain.
Kuschnerova has every bit of Gould's technique mated to Tureck's understanding of J.S. Bach and Richter's incisive and intelligent approach. On the basis of this recording, Kuschnerova should proceed to an acclaimed career in Bach. She has the mechanical tools, understanding and sustained technique to become a giant in Beethoven, as well.