Sunday, 3 January 2016

Bach - Preludes & Fugues - Alessandrini

Rating: 4/5

A fine recording - with some reservations

This is a fine recording in many ways, but I do have some reservations about it.

Rinaldo Alessandrini has brought together a very interesting programme here; he has taken free-standing preludes and fugues which were mainly composed as technical exercises for Bach's students from a great variety of sources and paired the preludes and fugues by key – sometimes pairing pieces from widely differing times and sources.  It works very well indeed, giving a varied and rewarding programme of (to me) largely unfamiliar pieces whose acquaintance I am very glad to make.  He plays with real care for each piece's meaning and structure, and this is clearly a labour of love by a fine scholar and musician.

What slightly takes the edge off this disc for me is Alessandrini's phrasing.  I am surprised to have to say this of a musician whom I admire very much and whose work I have loved over the years.  However, there is often a slight slowing or halting at the end of a phrase which in Bach I find hard to take.  It disrupts that wonderful pulse which beats, at different rates, through the whole of Bach's music.  Here the pulse seems to stumble rather too often for me and this throws me out of the music.  Two highly knowledgeable and experienced reviewers from BBC Music and Gramophone have no such reservations, so this is obviously a personal matter, but it really does affect my enjoyment of the disc.

That said, this is a fine achievement in all other ways, with a beautiful sound from the harpsichord (take that, Thomas Beecham!) which is beautifully recorded by Naïve.  There are good notes by Alessandrini and it is very nicely presented.  You may not share my reservations about the phrasing; if so you will love this, I think, but my personal recommendation does come with that qualification.

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