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Best Recordings of 2009 (#6)

Time for a review of classical CDs that were outstanding in 2009. My lists for the previous years: 2008, (2008 - "Almost") 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

# 6 - New Release

Bach, "Nun komm der Heiden Heiland" - Chorales, Preludes & Fugues, Edna Stern, Zig Zag 90104

available at Amazon
J.S.Bach, "Nun komm…",
Edna Stern
Zig Zag

Great music intelligently put together and terrifically played; the latest Bach recording on the ZigZag Territories label was always assured a spot among my favorite recordings of this year. Edna Stern sends three Prelude & Fugue pairs into the race, preceded by a transcribed Bach chorale each (one of these four Chorale/Prelude packages comes with Brahms’ Bach-like op.122 no.5, instead), and in doing so lifts her CD well above the pack of Bach-on-the-Piano releases and recitals. “Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland” starts with the eponymous chorale (BWV 659) in Busoni’s transcription. Stern’s idea is treating Bach as a vocal and orchestral composer which, apart from justification for playing harpsichord works on the piano (as if any was still—or again—necessary), frees her to explore all the advantages of the piano’s range of shades and colors, rather than treating it ‘harpsichordesque’. Might as well, when the result is Bach in such luxuriant sound, indulgent in beauty, yet never fussy. (WETA review)

# 6 - Reissue

Bach, Well Tempered Clavier, Books I & II, Sviatoslav Richter, Sony

available at Amazon
J.S.Bach, WTC, Book I,
Sviatoslav Richter
available at Amazon
J.S.Bach, WTC, Book II,
Sviatoslav Richter
Another candidate for romantic Piano-Bach, next to Stern and Tal/Groethuysen. And another sign that Sony has smelled the coffee and started putting discernable effort into their re-releases and re-re-releases. The two books of Sviatoslav Richter’s complete Well Tempered Clavier have been remastered (Yukio Takahashi), which means that the highly deficient sound from which these recordings (live from Salzburg, 1970 and ‘73/74), where each Prelude and Fugue sounds like it comes from a different source—some extremely close, some further away, now comes across as more direct and clearer. Warts and all and certainly better than in all its many previous incarnations (Melodiya, Olympia, Eterna, Eurodisc, RCA Red Seal et al.).

I wonder, too, whether we would find these readings, fabulously old-fashioned though they are, quite so amazing if it were not Richter playing them, but a complete unknown. I should hope I still did, because alongside Tatyana Nikolayeva (Victor) and Mieczyslaw Horszowski (only Book I, Vanguard Classics) these are the Well Tempered recordings of that particular pianistic type I cherish the most. A terrific antidote to the very different modern piano variants of Hewitt or Schiff, for example.

-> Best Recordings of 2009 #1
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #2
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #3
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #4
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #5
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #7
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #8
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #9
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #10

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