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Sokolov: Bach – Die Kunst der Fuge (2 CD, APE)

Bach: Die Kunst der Fuge (2CD, APE)
Bach: Die Kunst der Fuge (2CD, APE)

Performer: Grigory Sokolov
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 2
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Opus 111
Size: 412 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: no

Disc 1
01. Contrapunctus 1
02. Contrapunctus 2
03. Contrapunctus 3
04. Contrapunctus 4
05. Contrapunctus 5
06. Contrapunctus 6 In Stylo Francese
07. Contrapunctus 7 Per Augment Et Diminut
08. Contrapunctus 8 A 3 (Tripelfuge)
09. Contrapunctus 9 Alla Duodecima
10. Contrapunctus 10 Alla Decima
11. Contrapunctus 11 A 4 (Tripelfuge)
12. Contrapunctus 12a
13. Contrapunctus 12b
14. Contrapunctus 13a Contrapunctus Inversus
15. Contrapunctus 13b

Disc 2
01. Contrapunctus 19 Unvollendet
02. Contrapunctus 14 Per Augmentationem In Contrario Motu
03. Contrapunctus 15 Alla Ottava
04. Contrapunctus 16 Alla Decima Contrapunto Alla Terza
05. Contrapunctus 17 Duodecima In Contrapunto Alla Quinta
06. Sinfonia – Partita Nr. 2 In C-Moll BWV 826
07. Allemande – Partita Nr. 2 In C-Moll BWV 826
08. Courante – Partita Nr. 2 In C-Moll BWV 826
09. Sarabande – Partita Nr. 2 In C-Moll BWV 826
10. Rondeau – Partita Nr. 2 In C-Moll BWV 826
11. Capriccio – Partita Nr. 2 In C-Moll BWV 826

Power, authority – and brilliant technique

Grigory Sokolov is not as well known as he might be owing to his dislike of recording. In this, he is like another great Russian pianist, whom to my ears he most resembles: Richter. They both exude authority and commitment and are sometimes accused of being heavy-handed and percussive; indeed, I pity both the piano and its tuner once Sokolov has finished battering it into submission, yet you could never say he lacks finesse or control. His technique is quite astonishing; he knows exactly what he wants to do and does it. His liberal use of a certain staccato pointedness might for some become a mannerism but he is by no means as wilful as Gould and that clarity is especially suited to bringing out the “voices” in Bach and avoiding any Romantic soupiness. He is able to play this unfinished masterpiece as if it were an animated conversation amongst four mighty intellects and his tone is unfailingly round and beautiful.

I had previously belonged to the camp convinced that the most palatable way to hear this music was in arrangements of the kind Marriner gave us years ago on Philips, employing a variety of instruments, but I am now a convert to the purity and unity conferred on this mighty work by so persuasive an advocate for its performance on the modern piano as Sokolov. He does not seem to me to admit any ego in to his interpretation; this is as close as it gets to a performer sounding a like a channel for Bach’s spirit yet it is no more anonymous than it is obtrusive.

The 1982 digital sound is very acceptable. The fluid, refined Partita is a lovely bonus – an ideal companion piece.

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