Anna Vinnitskaya & Kammerakademie Postdam - Bach: Concertos for Pianos - Gramophone

It was only recently that the first complete edition of Bach’s multiple keyboard concertos played on modern instruments came our way, spearheaded by pianist David Fray (Erato, 2/19). My colleague Harriet Smith praised much of the playing, yet rightly disparaged the boomy and diffuse engineering. Alpha’s present offering is markedly superior, and tosses in a few solo concertos to sweeten the deal. To be sure, Evgeni Koroliov and company cheat a little, because they play the Concerto with four keyboards, BWV1065, in an arrangement reduced down to three pianos. Not that it matters, because the music is basically Bach’s reworking of Vivaldi’s B minor Concerto with four violins: in other words, a transcription of a transcription.

At any rate, one has only to compare the generalised and blurry blend of the opening Allegro in the Fray/Rouvier C major Double Concerto alongside the altogether crisper, more incisive repartee between soloists Evgeni Koroliov and his former pupil Anna Vinnitskaya and the members of the Kammerakademie Potsdam to hear what I mean. Deftly adapted from Bach’s famous Concerto for two violins, the C minor BWV1062’s outer movements feature sensitively dovetailed ensemble work from Koroliov and his wife Ljupka Hadzi Georgieva, while all three pianists raise the proverbial bar for technical and spiritual unanimity in the two triple concertos; indeed, BWV1064’s central Adagio proves no less heart-melting than the vintage Fischer/Matthews/Smith three-piano encounter. In the finale of the D minor, BWV1063, Fray and his colleagues’ largely détaché delineation imparts an effectively biting clarity between soloists and ensemble. By contrast, Koroliov and company bring a faster tempo and more varied articulations to the table. One could argue that the solo concerto selections sound more arrestingly detailed in the finely honed Murray Perahia and Angela Hewitt cycles, yet Vinnitskaya’s right- and left-hand independence and suave articulation throughout the finale of the A major Concerto, BWV1055, will take your breath away. As for Koroliov’s D minor, he keeps the music vital and alive, shaping the phrases with a fluid sense of narrative and projection, not unlike the late Lukas Foss’s unforgettable performances of this work. Those who want all of Bach’s multiple keyboard concertos on the piano cannot do better. Highly recommended.

01 July 2019