Karin Kei Nagano’s Solo CD Debut

Review by: Jed Distler

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Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

Born in 1998, Karin Kei Nagano is the daughter of conductor Kent Nagano and pianist Mari Kodama, and has been performing in public since childhood. Making one’s solo CD debut with Bach’s Inventions and Sinfonias is an audacious gesture, yet overall Nagano’s solid technique and tasteful musicianship yield fine results.

To be certain, Nagano does not quite match the refined articulation, the sense of dance, and the liveliness of character that András Schiff and Angela Hewitt bring to their respective Inventions and Sinfonias cycles, nor does she capture the brooding tension that Simon Dinnerstein divines from similarly slow tempo choices in certain pieces (the F minor Sinfonia, for example). Still, there are excellent moments, especially in the Sinfonias.

Note, for example, Nagano’s conversational unfolding of the C major’s imitative writing, the lilt of the B minor’s repeated-note motive, or the D major’s understated yet perceptible swagger. The two-part B-flat Invention receives a brisk and slightly brash reading, while the E major Invention’s chromatic motive is intensified by way of Nagano’s thoughtful use of dynamics. Trills and embellishments, however, could be more assertive.

Incidentally, Nagano orders the pieces according to the 1720 Clavierbüchlein’s symmetrically ascending and descending cycle of keys, rather than the more frequently recorded numerical sequence as set out in Bach’s 1723 edition of the score. It’s a musically wise decision that others might wish to emulate.



Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Schiff (Decca); Hewitt (Hyperion); Gould (Sony); Peter Serkin (RCA)

  • Karin Kei Nagano (piano)

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