The Iranian pianist, Ramin Bahrami, studied with Piero Rattalino at the conservatory “G. Verdi” in Milan, at the Accademia Pianistica “Incontri col Maestro” in Imola and with Wolfgang Bloser at the Hochschule für Musik in Stuttgart. He participated in master-courses with Alexis Weissenberg, András Schiff, Robert Levin and, in particular, with Rosalyn Tureck, the artist who, more than any other in the 20th century, popularized Bach’s works through her research and performances.
The recordings released in this series are devoted to the music of Bach, never a specialty among Russians, and they have the feeling of something extreme, developed in isolation. Feinberg plays Bach, perhaps, as Liszt might have heard Bach and played him – with maximum use of the pedals, a full range of dynamics, and an approach that in every way transforms Bach into an arch-Romantic. This disc, in the label's Feinberg series, is perhaps the most extreme of all, for here the artist tackles not only piano works but those for organ – the listener is treated not only to Feinberg's interpretations but also to his transcriptions. Sample the booming bass lines of the group of chorale preludes in the middle of the program. Of course, the line between transcription and interpretation in this case is not terribly clear. Taken as a whole, the Chromatic fantasia and fugue, BWV 903, leaves the impression that the music has been pushed nearly as far as in Busoni's Bach transcriptions; it's not Bach, really, but it's quite a thrill.
Although not quite at the level of profundity of his teacher Gustav Leonhardt's recording, Kenneth Gilbert's 1983 recording of Book 1 of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier does have a style and polish that Leonhardt's too often lacked. Thus, while Leonhardt goes further into some of the minor-key fugues to find intellectual and spiritual depths that Gilbert does not plumb, Gilbert's playing is so much more elegant and graceful than Leonhardt's that it is difficult to choose between them. For listeners who approach The Well-Tempered Clavier as a volume of virtuoso works whose success depends on the effortless refinement of the player, the Gilbert, with its superbly remastered sound, will be the one to get. For listeners who approach The Well-Tempered Clavier as a volume of prayers written as preludes and fugues, the Leonhardt will be preferable. Both are superb and both belong in any Bach collection.
Dantone opens book two with an exceptionally tender interpretation of the first prelude; this work is often played too quickly, too aggressively, but Danton is very humble in his performance of this piece, he lets the music take over rather than directing it too rigidly. His performance of the C sharp major prelude is a gem - his ornamentation is fresh and delightful, his phrasing subtle and inventive. He takes this piece and gives it new life, infusing it with joy and happiness. Even the following fugue takes on this tone, in spite of the radical difference between the two pieces.
Ottavio Dantone studied organ and harpsichord at and graduated from the Conservatory "G. Verdi" in Milan. Beginning his career at a young age, Dantone dedicated his studies to early music and to collaborating with various orchestras, acquiring considerable experience in basso continuo, in the art of which he is now considered an authority. In 1985, he was awarded the basso continuo prize at the International Paris Festival and in 1986, he received an award at the International Bruges Festival (two of the most renowned harpsichord festivals in the world).
Ten years ago Angela Hewitt recorded a version of The Well-Tempered Clavier Book I which dazzled the critical world and record-buying public. It was followed shortly afterwards by Book II which was similarly received. Now, fresh from her Bach World Tour—in which she performed the complete Well-Tempered Clavier from August 2007 until the end of October 2008 in 58 cities in 21 countries on six continents—Angela has made an entirely new recording of this most iconic of keyboard works.
As a young pianist, András Schiff earned wide esteem for his 1980s recordings of the major keyboard works of J.S. Bach; in recent years, as part of his long term relationship with ECM, he has gone back to Bach as a sage veteran, earning more acclaim for his New Series recordings of the Goldberg Variations (2003) and the six Partitas (2009). Now, using his own Steinway, Schiff turns his focus to the 48 preludes and fugues of The Well-Tempered Clavier, making studio recordings in Lugano of both books for this 4-CD set.