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Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Bach concertos, 20 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Bach: Piano Concertos BWV 1052, 1054, 1056, 1058, 1065 (Audio CD)
I think this is an excellent disc. I love Bach's solo keyboard works played on both harpsichord and piano but have always struggled with the concerti played on a modern piano because the texture never seemed quite right to me. I took a chance on this disc because I loved Tharaud's recording of Scarlatti D. Scarlatti: Sonatas and I'm very glad I did: he manages to bring something quite special to these works and, for the first time, I thoroughly enjoy hearing them played on the piano.

The music itself is fantastic, of course. Most of Bach's keyboard concertos are transcriptions that he made of concertos for other instruments. Tharaud has selected four of the finest solo concertos (including the two often performed as violin concertos), a lovely single-movement transcription of a concerto by Marcello and the extraordinary concerto for four keyboards which Bach transcribed from Vivaldi's concerto for four violins. It's a lovely programme, full of contrasts and containing some of Bach's finest keyboard writing.

The performances are quite exceptionally good, I think. Tharaud has a superb technique and a lovely supple approach to Bach's music which preserves all its musical and intellectual weight while breathing light and air into it, and that wonderful spring in Bach's step is well in evidence. Les Violons du Roi are also excellent, with a similar flexibility and joy in the music, and the combination produces something really special, I think. Tharaud multi-tracks all four of the piano parts in BWV1065 and it is easily the best version I know, with a depth and clarity have never come across before.

I have recordings of the keyboard concertos by true greats of Bach on the piano including Angela Hewitt and Murray Perahia, but none has really involved me in the way this disc does. Even if you're a piano sceptic when it comes to Bach I would recommend giving this a try - like me, you might just be surprised. Very warmly recommended.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Apr 2016 14:58:38 BDT
Glilla Bear says:
I'm going to buy this cd on the strength of reviews found on Amazon. I am just exceedingly sceptical about the acceptability of the same soloist multi-layering all four piano parts as appears to have been done here. I suppose the proof of the pudding is in the listening (as it were!), but even were the result, as it apparently is, to be an excellent performance, I ask, "Yes, but is it actually a performance at all?" The aesthetic question is akin to the one posed by Barrington-Coupe in issuing "performances" of his wife which have been electronically doctored so that they no longer really resemble the performance of the artist who actually recorded them. I actually prefer one of these "performances" (that of the Mendelssohn Andante (Introduction) and Rondo Capriccioso) to the original which Farhan Malik assures me is that of Ian Hobson. Yes - but is it actually a performance by anyone at all? And if not, how can one validly favour it as a performance, wonderful though it be?

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Apr 2016 18:56:16 BDT
Sid Nuncius says:
Hello, Glilla Bear.

I understand your reservations about the multi-tracking here, although personally I don't share them; I think it's a legitimate way to do it even if each part isn't being performed at the same time and therefore responding to the whole of the music around it.

I don't really think it's fair to draw a parallel with the Joyce Hatto "recordings", though. They involved electronic trickery, deception and downright dishonesty all round and, given the reprocessing that was done, I don't think they are "genuine" performances, even if the end result is pleasing. With Tharaud here, each part is recorded as played (albeit presumably with the same edits as one always gets in recordings nowadays) and genuinely represents the music as he played it, which surely isn't the same thing as the Hatto business?

Thanks for posting this interesting comment. I hope you enjoy this set as much as I do.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Apr 2016 20:37:26 BDT
Glilla Bear says:
Hello Sid Nuncius,
I am sure I will enjoy the set. I've not heard Mr Tharaud in the flesh, but he is apparently quite special. The problem I've highlighted is really an academic one, but none the less genuine for that. One of my ex-pupils, still a close friend, was herself taught by Joyce Hatto, and truly loved her, though she found "Barry" a bit remote. Performers will usually say that they play a piece differently every time, and my unease resides partly in that fact. I take your point, though, that it is a separate problem from the one presented by Joyce Hatto. It's just that some of one's reservations have the same logic behind them, namely that you could never "hear" (or see) the given rendering in the concert hall without some electronic aids. So to admire the performance on disc seems a bit odd - as indeed it does to admire, as I do, the Hobson/Coupe Mendelssohn hybrid. I suppose if Mendelssohn himself thought highly of it, that would compound the problem. Mercifully, he is not here to say..........It's worth mentioning that I became involved in a very lively correspondence on the "Pianophiles" forum, where especially American commentators got very heated that I should find anything at all "defensible" in what Hatto and Barrington-Couple had done. In some ways it was a victimless crime. Robert von Bahr found laughable the idea that Joyce Hatto should be criminally pursued. More copies of Laszlo Simon's BIS recording of Liszt's "Etudes d'Execution Transcendante" in the months after the fraud was exposed were sold than in the years the recording had existed prior to the discovery. Barry had taste - the Simon performance is a very fine one. There's no fraud to be exposed chez Mr Tharaud, and I hope his set sells well.
GB
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Sid Nuncius
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   

Location: London

Top Reviewer Ranking: 22