BACH (arr. Lifschitz) Musical Offering, BWV 1079. Prelude and Fugue in E, BWV 552, “St Anne.” FRESCOBALDI Toccatas, Book I: Prima; Seconda. Toccatas, Book II: Quinta • Konstantin Lifschitz (pn) • ORFEO 676071 (74:29)
Konstantin Lifschitz is a young player (b. 1976) of clear talent. It is not just his technique; thereRead more is clearly a formidable intellect here as well. On the present disc he plays his own arrangements of Bach with a sense of the utmost dedication and belief. Citing the moment of the genesis of the Musical Offering in Potsdam, Lifschitz claims that the piece was conceived at the piano (Gottfried Silbermann fortepianos, to be exact), although he is candid in his admission of his fear of the six-part Ricercar: “What Bach did can be compared only with crossing the Arctic Ocean—barefoot.”
Lifschitz allows the music to unfold naturally, never smudging textures unnecessarily and always utilizing a tone of the highest beauty. The expert recording (producted by Torsten Schreier along with no less than three engineers) in its clarity and intimacy seems to mirror Lifschitz’s conception perfectly. The Canon a 4 is the perfect exemplar. It begins incredibly limpidly, a thing of at once the greatest beauty and the noblest fragility.
Those who prefer their Musical Offering performed by ensemble would be best directed to Jordi Savall’s account with Le Concert des Nations on Alia Vox 9817, but Lifschitz provides a spectacular keyboard alternative.
To hear the “St Anne” Fugue on piano is initially a novelty. But as listenings progress, it becomes a genuine musical experience on its own terms. True, the sheer grandeur an organ can convey is necessarily toned down, but Lifschitz nevertheless brings shape to the extended Prelude (8:13). The Fugue begins as a haven of tranquility. As the contrapuntal complexity grows, so does the listener’s wonder at Lifschitz’s transparency of delivery.
The Frescobaldi, despite the fact that it is considered first in the informative booklet, is considered by Lifschitz as a postscript to the recording. “Here I address myself to my friends and lovers,” the pianist states, and indeed there is immediately a more intimate mode of utterance at work here. One almost feels in Toccata Prima that Lifschitz, having imitated harpsichord, ensemble, and organ, is now taking the piano into the whispered territory of the clavichord.
A wonderful disc. Lifschitz is clearly a pianist of great and questing intellect, who has impressed two of my colleagures in previous Fanfare issues: Jerry Dubins in 28:4 (Mozart) and Bert Verhaeghe in 30:3 (Beethoven). May his explorations continue apace.