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Piotr Anderszewski’s Revelatory Bach Pianism

Jed Distler

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For his latest Bach outing, Piotr Anderszewski has selected a well-contrasted and intelligently programmed group of twelve Preludes and Fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier Book II. His Bach pianism is a revelation in many respects. For starters, vocal music and dance idioms inform Anderszewski’s tempos. While many interpreters play the E-flat Fugue in a heavy, emphatic manner, Anderszewski unlocks its hidden gavotte, allowing the music to joyfully lilt. The same holds true for the F major Fugue as a whimsical gigue. The witty, shapely F minor Fugue proves absolutely convincing dressed up as a bourrée, while the B minor Fugue’s passepied qualities come out stronger here than anywhere else.

Because the pianist feels the E major Fugue in two rather than four beats to the measure, the contrapuntal lines gain conversational mobility in the manner of a motet. Choices in regard to phrasing, dynamics, and voicing significantly sharpen each interpretation’s character and substance. For example, the G minor Fugue’s contrapuntal voices tend to be close in register and consequently difficult to clarify. Anderszewski solves the problem by differentiating the fugue subject’s dynamics, and avoiding the usual tendency to accent the subject’s first note as if it were a downbeat. That may seem overly technical to most listeners, yet Anderszewski’s concern for proper rhythmic alignment creates a clearer and more fluent linear perspective.

The long G-sharp minor and B-flat minor Fugues also benefit from the pianist’s careful scaling of dynamics, resulting in climaxes of formidable emotional intensity. What is more, Anderszewski’s multi-leveled technical control and prodigious feeling for tone color benefit from an obviously well-regulated concert grand and drop-dead gorgeous sonics.

Will Anderszewski eventually record the remaining Book II Preludes and Fugues, or venture out into Book I? It frankly doesn’t matter. If you want to hear Bach come utterly alive, then by all means purchase, listen to, and cherish this extraordinary release.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Book II Excerpts: This One, Book II Complete: Koroliov (Tacet)

  • BACH, J.S.:
    The Well-Tempered Clavier Book II: Preludes & Fugues in C major, F minor, A-flat major, D-sharp minor, F major, B-flat minor, E-flat major, G minor, E major, G-sharp minor, B major, & B minor

    Soloists: Piotr Anderszewski (piano)

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