Bach By Blechacz

Review by: Jed Distler

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Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 8

Rafal Blechacz’s Deutsche Grammophon releases have yielded mixed results, ranging from a superb Haydn/Mozart/Beethoven recital to his crude and calculated Chopin Polonaises. The pianist’s first all-Bach outing for the label proves similarly inconsistent, although its finest moments are keepers.

Using minimum pedal, Blechacz serves up the Italian Concerto’s opening movement with crisp articulation, clever yet discreet embellishments, and palpable contrasts between the sections demarcated as “solo” and tutti”. The right-hand melody dominates throughout the slow movement, in contrast to the more judicious and subtle chamber-like balances between hands we hear from Perahia, Hewitt, and Tureck. The rollicking Finale, though, fares best, and features wittily-shaped detached articulation.

Dynamic contrasts and tonal gradations emerge a bit too obviously in the B-flat Partita’s Praeludium, followed by fast, hard-driven, and rather glib readings of the Allemande and Courante. However, it’s refreshing to hear a relatively brisk and streamlined Sarabande; many young pianists inflate the music to death.

Listeners familiar with Rosalyn Tureck’s intensely calibrated Four Duets will find Blechacz’s extroverted and conversational conceptions the perfect antipode. The A minor Fantasia and Fugue becomes an all-out virtuoso show-stopper in Blechacz’s hands; here he achieves an ideal musical/technical synthesis that alone is worth the price of this disc. The A minor Partita more-or-less follows the B-flat’s interpretive game plan, with a hard-nosed opening movement, a punchy Corrente, and a simple, direct Sarabande. Blechacz’s logy interpretation of the famous Myra Hess “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” transcription makes for an unprepossessing closer. The sonics are attractive, except for a slight stridency at loudest moments.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Italian Concerto and Duets: Hewitt (Hyperion), Partitas 1 & 3: Perahia (Sony)

  • BACH, J.S.:
    Italian Concerto; Partita No. 1 in B-flat major; Four Duets; Fantasia & Fugue in A minor; Partita No. 3 in A minor; Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (arr. Myra Hess)
  • Rafal Blechacz (piano)

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