Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Well-Tempered Clavier:
Preludes and Fugues Nos. 2, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22.
Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland. Schmuecke dich O liebe Seele
Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme
Edna Stern (pn)
ZIG-ZAG 90104 (65:40)
Be prepared for completely idiosyncratic Bach when putting on this CD. Though of course there is a long, proud history of Bach on the ivories, going back on recordings at least to Busoni, this is the first disc I’ve ever heard in which one is so
of its being played on a piano. No attempt at a crisp, clean style here, or terraced dynamics
Lipatti or Gould. Stern, a pupil of Leon Fleisher, Martha Argerich, and Krystian Zimerman, combines elements of all three in her approach to Bach. This is romantic and ruminative playing that never crosses the line into prissiness, self-absorption, or “classics lite,” yet which calms the mind and spirit while retaining elements of interest. Listening to Edna Stern play Bach is the aural equivalent of watching a brook run its course over rocks and twigs—a double reference, as it were, since Bach’s name is Brook in German. Stern’s rubato is generous, relatively speaking; her emphasis on the bass line and her consistent use of pedal are fascinating and individual. Altogether, there is much in her playing here that reminds me of Rosalyn Tureck, particularly in her generally slow tempos.
Indeed, I found myself thinking of Tureck frequently as the disc played. It’s obvious from both her musical approach and her comments in the printed interview. Stern remarks that, for her, Bach’s music “from the Two- and Three-Part Inventions onwards, pedagogical intentions seem to me to take a back seat to strictly compositional considerations. . . . I really do think that each of the preludes and fugues has its own color and calls for a particular ‘orchestration.’ This stems from the fact that the piano is capable of a multitude of different inflections.”
It may indeed seem easy to “read” calmness and spirituality into the choral preludes
Nun komm’ her Heiden Heiland
, but it is far more difficult to bring such qualities out in the preludes and fugues of
The Well-Tempered Clavier.
I’m not certain if I would like an entire
cycle like this (I prefer Jill Crossland’s exquisite reading, which to me has more of a lilting rhythmic appeal), but in the context of this CD recital they are fascinating and well thought out.
I would recommend this disc to those who are not allergic to Bach on the piano, to fans of Tureck, and those who wish to experience a side of Bach that sounds very close to Mendelssohn.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
Featured Sound Samples
Chorale Preludes for Organ, op 122 (Brahms): No 5: Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele
The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 (Bach): Prelude no 21 in B flat
Chorale Preludes BWV 645-650 "Schübler" (Bach): No 1: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme
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