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Bach & Contemporary Music

Bach / Gubaidulina / Sostmann
Release Date: 02/25/2014 
Label:  Tyx Art   Catalog #: 13036   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian BachSofia GubaidulinaArvo PärtXiaoyong Chen,   ... 
Performer:  Alexandra Sostmann
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BACH & CONTEMPORARY MUSIC Alexandra Sostmann (pn) TYX ART 13036 (65:23)


BACH Toccata in c, BWV 911. GUBAIDULINA Toccata—Troncata. PÄRT Für Alina. BACH English Suite No. 2 in a, BWV 807. Read more class="COMPOSER12">CHEN Diary III. RILEY G-Song. DUTILLEUX Au gré des ondes: V. Hommage à Bach. BACH Prelude and Fugue in d, BWV 851. SHOSTAKOVICH Prelude and Fugue in d, op. 87/24


It seems that Bach is so universal a figure that his music can be put next to just about anything and make an interesting and effective program: music of the pre-Bach years, music in which he himself found inspiration; other Baroque music, highlighting either the similarities or differences in styles between Bach and his contemporaries; music from the “Classical” years, either in contrast with his sons’ generation or as an inspiration to later composers such as Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven; with music of the composers of the 19th century, who rediscovered him and took inspiration from his music; or with that of the 20th century, when composers sought to reinvent themselves, either distancing themselves from the long 19th century or by finding in his music a purity of expression along with the clarity of reason. Bach’s mathematical ingenuity was certainly intriguing for a variety of composers who followed him, if not especially composers in the last century. Here the pianist Alexandra Sostmann has programmed Bach alongside of a number of different composers and compositional styles of music, all from the latter part of the 20th century. And while one cannot hear direct inspiration—the quotation of motives, the use of similar constructions—there is much indirect inspiration to be found.


Beginning with Bach’s C-Minor Toccata, Sostmann shows the many sides of Bach the composer, and likely the improviser: The slower sections are contemplative, almost mesmerizing in quality, while the faster sections show a profound beauty of tone and clarity of voice-leading. What I miss is some of the inherent drive. But if Sostmann lacks some of the excitement of other pianists, her toccata explores a wide range of both free and highly organized musics, of the numerous sonorous possibilities of the piano as an instrument, and perhaps most importantly, it perfectly sets the mood for the pieces which follow. And what follows is as different as night and day—Gubaidulina’s Toccata—Troncata and Pärt’s Für Alina . In the first, wild and seemingly randomly spaced notes in the upper registers performed forte with marked accents contrast with long-held chords and soft staccato notes in the bass registers; the ending of the piece contrasts sonorities of a different sort—a slow chromatic scale performed with dissonant undertones and a long-held chord with movement first below and then above it. Pärt’s work is less of a virtuosic tour de force and more of a study in simple resonant sound. It provides a breath of fresh air after the wildly dissonant Gubaidulina. Sostmann performs both lovingly.


Next on the program is the A-Minor English Suite. Its fierce opening Prelude contrasts well with the preceding work and seems to re-energize both listener and program. In this work, too, the pianist finds a variety of different appropriate touches, maintaining a general mood for each of the contrasting dances—she is tender and lyrical in the Allemande, bouncy and ebullient in the Courante, flowing and gentle in the Sarabande (the magical centerpiece in both the suite and in her performance), and rhythmic and driven in the Gigue. Xiaoyong Chen’s work, Diary III , is comprised of two different movements. “Song of Stones” is a work which uses the piano’s ability to resonate as its primary feature. The composer explains that the patterns which emerge, “exist in the space between the vibrating strings.” The second movement, Wind, Water, and Shadow , sounds a bit more influenced by Debussy than Bach, but if the whole point of the movement is, as the program notes read, to “cross traditional borders” and “bear reference to various cultures,” then Chen is indeed successful. It is a fascinating movement and well played by Sostmann, who easily handles its numerous difficulties. Riley’s G-Song follows. Originally composed for the Kronos Quartet, it is here performed in transcription. One may not believe that a work of this sort belongs on this program; the composer would certainly disagree: when asked this very question, on whether this piece would work here he gave an “enthusiastic YES” as his answer. The more one listens in context, the more one agrees. Dutilleux’s work, written in homage to Bach, sounds like a harmonically updated version of a Bach work: It is tender and lyrical, uses a repetitive underlying rhythm which keeps the momentum of the piece moving forward, and is appropriately serious in nature.


Bach’s D-Minor Prelude and Fugue from the WTC Book I may seem an odd choice as the last original piece featured on the recital by the composer, but it works splendidly here: in just a few moments the pianist is able to conjure up a sound and texture which at once recalls the Dutilleux but which also looks forward to the last major work on the recital, Shostakovich’s last and great D-Minor Prelude and Fugue, from his mammoth op. 87 collection. That entire opus was originally written for the pianist Tatiana Nikolayeva, after the composer heard her perform—you guessed it!—Bach! Sostmann’s rendition is both profound and profoundly moving.


Given the thought of programming and the performances themselves, this release is a winner. The way that Sostmann moulds Bach’s music to suit its surrounding is exceptional—her way with it is so elastic that she makes one feel the connection between all of the pieces here; and that is no small feat considering the numerous styles encompassed. Though this is my first exposure to Sostmann’s playing, I can guarantee that it will not be my last!


FANFARE: Scott Noriega
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Works on This Recording

1. Toccata in C minor, BWV 911 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Alexandra Sostmann (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1717; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 09/2013 
Venue:  Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg 
Length: 10 Minutes 40 Secs. 
2. Toccata-troncata by Sofia Gubaidulina
Performer:  Alexandra Sostmann (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; USSR 
Date of Recording: 09/2013 
Venue:  Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg 
Length: 1 Minutes 54 Secs. 
3. Für Alina by Arvo Pärt
Performer:  Alexandra Sostmann (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976; Estonia 
Date of Recording: 09/2013 
Venue:  Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg 
Length: 2 Minutes 58 Secs. 
4. English Suite no 2 in A minor, BWV 807 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Alexandra Sostmann (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 09/2013 
Venue:  Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg 
Length: 16 Minutes 13 Secs. 
5. Diary 3, for piano by Xiaoyong Chen
Performer:  Alexandra Sostmann (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2008 
Date of Recording: 09/2013 
Venue:  Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg 
Length: 5 Minutes 25 Secs. 
6. G-Song, for string quartet & synthesizer, or synthesizer & soprano sax by Terry Riley
Performer:  Alexandra Sostmann (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1980; United States of Ame 
Date of Recording: 09/2013 
Venue:  Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg 
Length: 3 Minutes 48 Secs. 
7. Au gré des ondes by Henri Dutilleux
Performer:  Alexandra Sostmann (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; France 
Date of Recording: 09/2013 
Venue:  Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg 
Length: 2 Minutes 53 Secs. 
8. Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 6 in D minor, BWV 851 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Alexandra Sostmann (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 09/2013 
Venue:  Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg 
Length: 4 Minutes 23 Secs. 
9. Prelude & Fugue for piano No. 24 in D minor, Op. 87/24 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Alexandra Sostmann (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1950-1951; Soviet Union 
Date of Recording: 09/2013 
Venue:  Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg 
Length: 12 Minutes 12 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Toccata in C Minor, BWV 911: Toccata in C Minor, BWV 911
Toccata - Troncata
Fur Alina (For Alena)
English Suite No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 807: I. Prelude
English Suite No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 807: II. Allemande
English Suite No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 807: III. Courante
English Suite No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 807: IV. Sarabande
English Suite No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 807: V. Bourree I-II
English Suite No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 807: VI. Gigue
Diary III: No. 1. The Chant of Stones
Diary III: No. 2. Wind, Water and Shadow
G Song (arr. M. Horn for piano)
Au gre des ondes: V. Hommage a Bach
The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 846-869: Prelude No. 6 in D Minor, BWV 851
The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 846-869: Fugue No. 6 in D Minor, BWV 851
24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87: Prelude No. 24 in D Minor
24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87: Fugue No. 24 in D Minor

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