Originally recorded for the small Music Masters label in the early '90s, this set of Bach's keyboard concertos was among a series of choice Music Masters items reissued by Nimbus late in the first decade of the 21st century. The Russians have never been known for Bach, but this is a solid traversal that can be recommended to anyone wanting to hear these concertos on a piano accompanied by modern instruments. Despite these forces, there is a good deal of influence from the British historical-instrument movement apparent here; the crisp string playing avoids any hint of Romantic sheen, and Feltsman is very subtle in his introduction of purely pianistic elements. The long notes in the slow movements tend to be just a bit more extended than would be possible on a harpsichord, and Feltsman thus creates a smooth, pearly texture that's quite lyrical. In several of the finales he pushes the tempo to high speeds, creating an entirely different effect on a piano that the music would have on a harpsichord.
This reissue offers music lovers a golden opportunity to hear one of the truly great sets of Brandenburg Concertos. Listeners familiar with the fast, super-bright sound of certain famous British and German authentic instrument groups such as The English Concert or Musica Antiqua Kцln, will find much to savor in these warmly dark-toned versions. Gamba player turned conductor Jordi Savall treats each work with positively epicurean relish.
No composer looms over modern jazz quite like Johann Sebastian Bach, whose harmonic rigour seems to have provided the basis for bebop and all that followed. Listen to the endlessly mutating semiquavers tumbling from Charlie Parker’s saxophone and it could be the top line of a Bach fantasia; the jolting cycle of chords in John Coltrane’s Giant Steps could come straight from a Bach fugue and Bach’s contrapuntal techniques crop up in countless jazz pianists, from Bill Evans to Nina Simone. Bach certainly casts a long shadow over US pianist Brad Mehldau: even when he’s gently mutilating pieces by Radiohead, Nick Drake or the Beatles, he sounds like Glenn Gould ripping into the Goldberg Variations. Which is why it comes as no surprise to see Mehldau recording an entire album inspired by Bach. However, this is not a jazz album. Instead of riffing on Bach themes, as the likes of Jacques Loussier or the Modern Jazz Quartet have done in the past, After Bach sees Mehldau using Bach’s methodology. Mehldau plays five of Bach’s canonic 48 Preludes and Fugues, each followed by his own modern 21st-century response.