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HIPster Wars - News from the Bach Front - Communiqué 86,
This review is from: Bach, J.S.: Italian Concerto etc (DECCA The Originals) (Audio CD)
Bach addresses a higher order of things. He appeals to our aspirations to live a more sanctified life - whatever that means in practice. Could one suggest that a pianist who nails Scriabin should equally evoke cosmology from the Cantor of St Thomas'? I suggest so. Both offer escape-velocity from the mundane. That's why I abhor Leonhardt's Bach: it's the dustiest of algebra.
Some ascribe greatness to Brendel's Bach-recital from the Seventies. I dissent. OK, the recording is excellent. Bach's polyphony clearly appeals to Brendel the Brainiac: that much is clear - but he struggles to make it sound anything more than Chopin with a twist of counterpoint (this is especially true of BWV 922). Blame it on the pedal and the primacy of his right hand; and of course, Uncle Alfred is less mystical than a bum-waxing salon.
Furthermore, upon comparing his Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue with Kempff's equivalent from June 1969 (Bach, Beethoven, Schubert), it's apparent that the usual Brendel-ism is in play: temperance. It's so tiresome and predictable. In the hands of the old Prussian bootlegger, BWV 903 is a work of extraordinary menace and numinosity. Much the same could be said of `Ich Ruf Zu Dir, Herr Jesu': Kempff plays it with an exquisite degree of tension. With Brendel, they sound like an ode to Downtown Abbey - and don't tell the vicar! The Italian Concerto lacks the zest of Gould or Richter: it's the Night of the Dampened Emotions.
Whereto from here? Bangkok Betty has my cattle prod. It has been in her possession for some time - and from what I hear, it's been getting a work out. It's time to retrieve it. Brendel needs an application. "My kingdom for a zap!"