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Martin Stadtfeld Plays More Bach

available at Amazon
Bach, Keyboard Concertos, M. Stadtfeld,
Lucerne Festival Strings, A. Fiedler

(released on March 12, 2007)
Sony 88697036322 | 59'13"

Online scores:
BWV 1052 | BWV 1053 | BWV 1056
BWV 853 | BWV 867
German pianist Martin Stadtfeld first came to our attention on a frothy wave of media hype -- he spent his own money to rent a piano and studio space to make his maiden recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations -- while simultaneously making us suspicious of the facetious publicity focusing on everything but his musical attractions. Sony has released a few more discs since then, focused on Bach but not exclusively. Not many of them have been released widely in the United States, except this disc of three of Bach's keyboard concertos that only recently crossed my desk. After Stadtfeld's recording of the Goldberg Variations was picked up by Sony, Jens proclaimed the playing "self-conscious" and "idiosyncratic," and not much had changed by the time he made these recordings, in 2005, with the Lucerne Festival Strings.

If one is going to play these concertos on the modern piano, as Stadtfeld does, it would be hard to resist using the full complement of its power and variety of attack and tone. With only sixteen strings (or so -- the booklet does not list the personnel, although there are plenty of photos of Stadtfeld) arrayed against it, the Steinway dominates the ensemble. The group's director, Achim Fiedler, conducts and keeps the forces in line, with the strings mostly acting as a supportive cushion. Stadtfeld plays well, keeping up (mostly) with the fleet tempi chosen for most of the outer movements, often seeming to seek out dynamic extremes or incisive attacks. Some extra octaves sneak into the left hand here and there, there are some nice little embellishments, and a few segments of the first violin part are handed to a soloist (in the last movement of the fifth concerto, for example). Stadtfeld also includes a prelude and fugue, selected from the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier, between concertos. These are well played but not of great interest, in spite of Stadtfeld's grand statement in the ill-advised liner essay that the theme of one of them "may seem to represent a constellation around which the dust of the universe revolves." This disc is not recommended except to those who want to follow a promising young performer's progress.


jfl said...

agreement. it's not bad... it's just not special, either.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, there are so many amazing Bach concerto discs out there-- Gould especially, but also Perahia, a fine recent addition by David Fray, and many others-- and Stadtfeld's doesn't begin to compete. He plays them fast and crisply. That's about all there is to say about them.

For some reason I still keep my eye on this guy, though, probably because he has some (if far from all) of the qualities that classical music badly needs right now: he's young, handsome, doesn't dumb down the repertoire, and, through appearances on German TV, promo videos on and his liner notes, introduces and explains Bach and Beethoven to young people, inarguably a good thing.

jfl said...

Absolutely agree again... there are artists *important* for classical music and there are artists I definitely want on CD and the two may not necessarily be the same.

To above list of concerto recordings I'd add Angela Hewitt. I may have a harder time being enthusiastic about her recordings after the silly lecture, but her concertos are absolutely first rate.

Charles T. Downey said...

Agree and agree, especially about Hewitt as the way to go for the concertos with piano. My first pick would be for harpsichord and period instruments -- Trevor Pinnock (complete enough for the completist and now heavily discounted), Richard Egarr, Lars Ulrik Mortensen, or (not yet complete) Céline Frisch.