Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer: Maria Tipo
SPARS Code: DDD
Number of Discs: 5 CD box set
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: EMI Classics
Size: 1.02 GB
01. Transcriptions Busoni: Chaconne In D Minor (Partita Bwv1004)
02. Toccata & Fugue Bwv 565
03. Toccata, Adagio & Fugue Bwv 564
04. Prelude & Fugue Bwv 532
05. Prelude & Fugue Bwv 552
06. Goldberg Variations Bwv 988
07. Jesus, Que Ma Jole Demeure (Arrgt, Myra Hess)
08. Fantasy Chromatic & Fugue Bwv 903
09. Petite Preludes From The Clavichord Book By W.F. Bach Bwv 924-928 & 930
10. 6 Petite Preludes Bwv 933-938
11. Petite Fugues & Preludes With Fughettes Bwv 902, 902a, 952, 953 & 961
12. Prelude & Fughetta Bwv 899
13. Prelude & Fughetta Bwv 900
14. Prelude & Fugue Bwv 895
15. Concerto Italian Bwv 971
16. Partita No.1 Bwv 825
17. Partita No.2 Bwv 826
18. Partita No.4 Bwv 828
19. Partita No.3 Bwv 827
20. Partita No.5 Bwv 829
21. Partita No.6 Bwv 830
Great but Highly Personal Bach Interpretations
As a veteran collector of Bach keyboard music, on harpsichord or piano, I have heard every conceivable approach to this repertoire–from Gouldian divine madness to the sober academicism of Gustav Leonhardt. Maria Tipo’s interpretive style must be the most distinctive of any I have encountered. That does not mean it’s the most convincing, however. Her virtuosity is phenomenal; her toal palette kaleidoscopic. But she does indulge in some mannerisms that may put some listeners off.
First of all, her rubato is nearly as extreme as that of Wolfgang Rübsam (in his Bach organ series for Naxos), or Arrau in Chopin. If you don’t like these artists’ rubato-laden interpretations of their chosen repertoire, you probably won’t like Tipo’s Bach. Then there is Tipo’s very liberal use of the sustaining pedal to create imaginative, but sometimes stylistically questionable, textural effects. I would also caution listeners who don’t appreciate a very wide dynamic range in Bach to listen carefully and extensively before you purchase this set. Tipo sometimes uses dynamic gradiations effectively to clarify the voice-leading, but elsewhere at higher dynamic levels she can seem overbearing. Finally, I should mention that she is inconsistent with repeats in the Goldbergs, sometimes omitting but sometimes including those in the second half of the variations.
All of these qualifications are stated up front so that listeners who don’t like idiosyncratic music-making can look elsewhere for bargain editions of Bach’s Keyboard music (I suggest beginning with the superb, and economical, Decca compilation of Andras Schiff’s recordings from the 1980’s). More tolerant Bachians, however, should really hear Maria Tipo. If one can listen past some of the annoying mannerisms, there is musical genius at work here.
The Goldbergs are obviously the fruit of years of study and performance, as well as a really deep enjoyment of the piece–an enjoyment which comes not only from knowing the music inside out, but also from absolute pianistic mastery. She does things in this work I have never heard before–even from such imaginative artists as Perahia and Gould–bringing out inner voices, carifying textures, challenging received opinions about how the music should go. A recent review in *Fanfare* panned this performance–and I can see why if the reviewer was a purist. From my perspective, however, no version is more profound, or profoundly moving than Tipo’s.
The Partitas are also very fine. I don’t always agree with her choices of tempo or articulation; and she does tend to languish a bit in the allemandes and sarabandes (reminding me of Tureck in her set from the early ’50’s). Otherwise, a challenging and often insightful traversal of these over-recorded works.
Tipo really comes into her own in the Busoni transcriptions. Every facet of these daunting knuckle-busters is realized with panache and tender loving care. “Stokowski at the piano”–and none the worse for that!
The most delightful disc in the set, however, is the one devoted to the little preludes and other miscellaneous pieces from the Bach canon (not all of them by Johann Sebastian, to be sure). Here Tipo rivals, and at times even surpasses, Gould’s renditions, and no praise could be higher. Tipo’s tone is more ingratiating than Gould’s, and her playing conveys more inwardness. She savors every note, so that we experience a musical analog to “seeing the whole universe in a grain of sand.”
Altogether an extraordinary set, despite the mannerisms and a recording that combines excessive reverberation with occasional clanginess.
Recommended–with qualifications duly noted.