Bach: The Art of Fugue

Filippo Gorini piano
97:11 (2 CDs in a card triptych)
Alpha 755

It is a little odd to find this series of performances of Bach played on the modern grand piano by a succession of young players on the Alpha label, the home of impeccable historically informed (occasionally controversially so) performances. For my full views on Bach on the modern piano, please see my recent review of Bach: The Well-tempered Clavier Book 1, played on the piano by Aaron Pilsan also on Alpha. I won’t rehearse old arguments here, except to point out again that The Art of Fugue constitutes something of an exception to my HIP preference for period instruments. This enigmatic collection, as far as we can understand conceived by its composer as truly abstract music for the appreciation of connoisseurs and not tied in his mind to any particular instrument, transcends its time. As a result, it is played in our times on a variety of instruments and by different ensembles and still has the power to mesmerise. Thus too, these beautifully understated accounts on two CDs by Filippo Gorini beguile and charm in equal measure. I almost found myself admiring Gorini’s ability to bring out individual lines in the texture, something which Bach could not have done on any of the keyboard instruments of his time, but which a small chamber ensemble most certainly could and would have done – and which of course the eye, and the mind’s ear, of the educated connoisseur would also naturally have accomplished. If you like your Bach on modern piano, this surely must be the sort of performance you would want – wonderfully free from pianistic effects, elegantly understated and technically perfect.

D. James Ross

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