- Toccata for keyboard in D minor, BWV 913 (BC L144)
- French Suite, for keyboard No. 5 in G major, BWV 816 (BC L23)
- Prelude and Fugue, for keyboard No. 5 in D major (WTC I/5), BWV 850 (BC L84)
- Prelude and Fugue, for keyboard No. 13 in F sharp major (WTC I/13), BWV 858 (BC L92)
- Toccata for keyboard in E minor, BWV 914 (BC L145, 163)
- Partita for keyboard No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826 (BC L2)
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It's hard to tell what you're getting in this release from the front cover, which proclaims "J.S. Bach Played in a 17th Century Style," or from the back cover, which informs the buyer that "Jeffrey Biegel adopts the performance practice of Bach's time." Neither of these is possible with the proffered Steinway piano, and the relevance of the 17th century, at whose end Bach was 15, is entirely unclear. The album marks the debut of a new series issued by the venerable Steinway & Sons piano maker itself, and they need help in the editorial department. What you do get is a performance of Bach on a modern grand, along the general lines of those by Murray Perahia and the other concert pianists who have insisted on the grand piano's relevance for Bach, with the added ingredient of what Biegel, in the interview-format notes (in English only) calls "improvisation" but is actually the liberal application of added ornamentation in a Baroque performance practice, to be sure, but here apparently not one borne of long study of the source materials. With all this in mind, Biegel's performances are strong ones. On the ornamentation from light, occasional variation of consequent phrases to using the printed work merely as a stimulus to further creative activity, he falls near the middle; he applies ornamentation throughout most of the movements, but less heavily in fully polyphonic contexts than in others, and he has a knack for maintaining the basic feel and contour of a line even while adding a good many notes to it. His playing in general is certainly pianistic, but there's nothing here to shock anyone who's experienced the likes of Glenn Gould, and he doesn't turn Bach into a Romantic like the pianists of the Russian school. The listener may be likelier to complain about Biegel's phrasing and articulation than about the ornaments; he adds odd attacks to certain lines (try out the Bourée from the "French Suite No. 5 in G major, BWV 816," for an example) that work at cross-purposes with the basic symmetries of the music. Steinway's money went into engineering, and into the tonally lush piano Biegel plays, rather than into editorial help, and the recording will be appreciated by audiophiles with good equipment. An offbeat release that whets the appetite for further outings from the company that pioneered so many aspects of American retailing.
|Label:||Steinway & Sons|