As a young pianist, András Schiff earned wide esteem for his 1980s recordings of the major keyboard works of J.S. Bach; in recent years, as part of his long-term relationship with ECM, he has gone back to Bach as a sage veteran, earning more acclaim for his New Series recordings of the Goldberg Variations (2003) and the six Partitas (2009). Now, using his own Steinway, Schiff turns his focus to the 48 preludes and fugues of The Well-Tempered Clavier, making studio recordings in Lugano of both books for this 4-CD set.
An iconic inspiration for composers from Mozart and Beethoven to Chopin and Brahms and beyond, The Well-Tempered Clavier has long been considered the Old Testament of the keyboard literature (with Beethoven's piano sonatas as the New Testament). In his liner notes, Paul Griffiths underscores the suitability of Bach's timeless keyboard work for the modern piano: "Bach's inquiry into so many nuances, of touch, of interplay between hands and between contrapuntal lines, of character and of expressivity, has helped form keyboard technique as we know it, and his music belongs to the instrument of Beethoven, of Chopin, of Debussy, of Kurtág - especially when that instrument is played with the mastery and sensitivity of Schiff in these performances (...) Noteworthy is his floated melody and his rhythmic sense - his realization that so much of Bach's music is song or dance. Grandeur and intimacy are also here. Wit, too."
In the introduction to his ECM release of Bach's Partitas, Schiff laid out his motivation for revisiting music he first recorded two decades before: "Great music is far greater than its performers. We try our entire lives to unveil its secrets and to convey its unique message. Even if we never quite reach the imaginary goal, our many performances give us experience and knowledge that were hidden from us years ago. We form a better understanding of its structure and inner workings. Horizons broaden before our eyes."
"Mr. Schiff is, in Bach, a phenomenon. He doesn't so much perform it as emit, breathe it." - New York Times
Personnel: András Schiff (piano)
ECM 2270; ECM RECORDS - Germania; Classica da camera