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Evengi Koroliov (piano)
Bach’s Keyboard Works from Koroliov

Contents

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

 

K-2

Bach: French Overture & Italian Concerto, BWV 831, 971; "Chromatic" Fantasia & Fugue (Edition Bachakademie Vol. 108)
Bach: Keyboard Works 1, Box 8 [Box Set]

 

Duets BWV 802-805 [2:41, 2:48, 2:35, 6:10]
French Overture in B minor, BWV 831 []
Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue in D minor, BWV 903 []
Fantasia & Fugue in C minor, BWV 906 []
Italian Concerto in F major, BWV 971 []

Evgeni Koroliov (Piano)

Hänssler

Jan 1999; Sep 1999

CD / TT: 77:42

Recorded at HR-Sendesaal, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Review: Bach Keyboard Works From Koroliov (4 Parts)
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

Part 1

Donald Satz wrote (July 10, 2000):
Hänssler recently issued a disc of five Bach keyboard works performed by the pianist Evengi Koroliov who has received much praise for his previous Bach recordings including the Art of Fugue and Goldberg Variations. The catalog number is 92.108. The works on this new disc consist of the following:

French Overture in B minor, BWV 831.
Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue in D minor, BWV 903.
Italian Concerto in F major, BWV 971.
Four Duets, BWV 802-805.
Fantasia & Fugue in C minor, BWV 906.

I'll start with the French Overture (BWV 831), which is the longest work at up to 30 minutes in length. Comparison recordings are:

Rosalyn Tureck (Piano) - Philips 456979.
Piotr Anderszewski (Piano) - Harmonia Mundi 911679.
Sergey Schepkin (Piano) - Ongaku 024-109. Andras Schiff (Piano) - Decca 433313.
Edward Aldwell (Piano) - Biddulph FLW 002.
Kenneth Gilbert (Harpsichord) - Harmonia Mundi 901278.
Robert Woolley (Harpsichord) - EMI 49800.

Concerning sound quality, there aren't any significant problems with any of the versions. Although Tureck was recorded in 1959, her sound is clean, highly detailed, and attractive. I should mention that Gilbert's sound is rather "in your face", but a little adjusting of the audio controls largely eliminates that situation without any negative side effects. Koroliov's version has the best sound quality of all - crisp, clear, rich, detailed - couldn't be better.

The French Overture is similar to Bach's Orchestral Suites in that it begins with a large-scale movement (overture) followed by a series of dance movements. The initial movement begins with a dotted-rhythm Grave which leads into a fugal Allegro and returns to the Grave mode. Being in the French style, the music is very elegant with abundant ornamentation. The work is not one of Bach's most popular keyboard compositions but has been recorded with some frequency. Unlike any of the French Suites, the French Overture does not have an Allemande but does have additional dances.

The first movement overture is one of Bach's most inspired pieces of keyboard composition. The Grave is subtle and reflective, yet highly dramatic and emotionally-charged. The Allegro is powerful in impact and conveys to me a host of emotions/themes ranging from deep comfort, serenity, and delicacy to horrific happenings such as an invasion of monstrous aliens, or atonal families moving into your neighborhood.

The immediate feature that's obvious after listening to each version is that Schiff, Woolley, and Anderszewski are not fully satisfied with the Grave-Allegro-Grave regimen; they add a second Allegro and third Grave. I feel neutral about this decision. On one hand, there's nothing wrong with more of a good thing. On the other, I feel fully satisfied without the additional repetitions which make the movement 12 to 13 minutes long.

I'm glad to say that every version is a joy to listen to. Each one is at least highly effective in both the Grave and Allegro, and I love the Grave from Tureck and from Aldwell. Koroliov holds up very well in this company; his Grave is slow-paced and gorgeous, his Allegro exciting and eventful. My favorite first movement is the Gilbert version which is the only one excellent throughout and has "forward momentum" written all over it. But its advantage over the others is small.

The first dance is a french style Courante; this is bitter/sweet music which might seem rather simple at first blush but with additional listenings reveals its beauty through the interplay of voices. Unlike with the overture, there are some performances which have a significant problem. Aldwell uses the bass notes in such a strong/defiant manner that I felt he was psyching himself up for a wrestling match. Anderszewski's problem is that the bass notes get too much prominence; interplay is reduced. With Schiff, I was writing "fussy, bad move, cute, choppy, disjointed". This is, in my opinion, Schiff at his worst which still isn't all that bad.

The remaining versions are excellent. Gilbert and Tureck are stately; Tureck's counterpoint is strongly displayed. Schepkin is elegant and quick; it works beautifully. Koroliov is elegant and slow-paced; I can really luxuriate in his reading. Woolley is the one I like the most; I think his reading best contrasts the two moods of the music and his ornamentation is outstanding.

The next dance sequence is a Gavotte I, Gavotte II, and a da capo of Gavotte I. The first Gavotte is playful and teases with exuberation, the second is at a much lower register and is more subdued yet surprisingly delightful in its mood changes.

As with all the movements in the French Overture, ornamentation is an important element. The "right" ornamentation provides a greater sense of completion; it adds to enjoyment and interest. The wrong type subtracts from completeness and also damages the flow of the music. It's a subjective matter than each listener determines. My perception before starting the survey was that Schepkin and Schiff would likely have some problems with ornamentation. With the Gavottes, they both have their turn; their ornamentation is fussy and excessive with negative impact on the music's flow. Schepkin is also fast paced and sounds rushed. Koroliov is also speedy to no good effect and somewhat soft-focused; I would have liked more impact.

Aldwell, Anderszewski, Woolley, and Gilbert provide very good performances. Tureck is more than a minute slower than every other version; her counterpoint is exceptional as is her contrasting of moods without any loss of momentum. Tureck owns this dance sequence.

Next is the Passepied dance sequence. Passepied I tends to be more exuberant than II which is quite calming and serene. I first listened to Gilbert, Koroliov, and Anderszewski; I was very impressed with each. Then Aldwell brought me back to earth. His version is a fine one with a very quick Passepied I, but it didn't take flight for me; I would have liked more strength in Passipied I and more poetry in II. Schiff is very fast in Passepied I and sounds rushed with clipped notes. Tureck, Woolley, and Schepkin were also impressive. More listening was definitely in order for the six excellent versions.

I'm back with my conclusions. Anderszewski is the only pianist who doesn't bother with any exuberance in Passipied I; he replaces it with a somewhat hushed mystery which is lovely. Combined with a highly poetic II, this is a highly desireable reading. If Anderszewski would be too soft-focused for some, Tureck would be the antidote. She is strong and demonstrative, and this works well also. Schepkin is fast throughout yet amply poetic. Gilbert's great with just a tad too slow a tempo. Woolley's version is perfectly paced; his Passipied I has an infectious tempo with superb accenting, and II is eventful and lovely with fantastic harpsichord sound. Koroliov is about as fast as Schepkin in Passipied I, and it holds together even better; his is the most exuberant performance. Then Koroliov switches geperfectly for Passipied II - a beautiful reading. So, Koroliov and Woolley share first place in my affection.

The Sarabande is slow-paced, serious, and deep. It has me reflecting on mistakes of the past, and how different my life and those around me might have been if those mistakes had not happened. Koroliov is quite slow at over four minutes and has the full measure of the music; his is a special interpretation with superb projection. Schiff, at over three minutes, does not convey the emotional depth of Koroliov, although his is a lovely performance. That's more than I can say for Schepkin whose reading at under three minutes gives me the impression of glossing over serious matters. Aldwell, at Schiff's tempo, projects beautifully and stands tall next to Koroliov. Anderszewski is as slow paced as Koroliov but does not project the emotional depths as well. Tureck is the slowest at almost five minutes and mostly projects a slow-motion traversal that seems to take over ten minutes; this is no better than Schepkin's fast performance. Both Woolley and Gilbert are very good, but I would have liked greater differentiation of dynamics from each.

In the Bourree dance sequence, the first dance is again exuberant with the second more serene. Gilbert and Schiff are problematic. Gilbert drives too hard and sounds mechanical, not rhythmic. Schiff is fine in the second dance, but his fussy mannerisms and cute and annoying embellishments ruin the first dance. Schepkin, Woolley, Koroliov, Tureck, and Anderszewski are much better. Schepkin's first dance is very fast and exciting; unfortunately, he is too fast in the Bourree without sufficient poetry and delicacy. Lack of sufficient poetry and delicacy also applies to Woolley whose Bouree I is excellently paced. Koroliov provides the best Bourree II, but is a little too fast in I. Tureck is the slowest with great detail in the counterpoint but a rather clinical approach to this elaborate music. Anderszewski does well throughout.

Aldwell's is the best version. He does deliver a fine Bourree II, but it's the first dance where he is revelatory. He makes this dance an event. His pacing and swagger are perfect; his combination of strength and poetry is outstanding - a riveting performance.

Reading the liner notes to the various versions, I was struck by the difference of opinion concerning the mood of the Gigue. They ranged from "austere" to "jolly" and "spirited". The music can certainly be spirited and/or austere; I have no idea where "jolly" comes into the picture. After listening to each version a few times, I realized that I was enjoying the moderate to slow performances but not caring much for the faster versions. That's because the adjective that I feel best describes this Gigue is "luxuriant". I'm confident that this music can be played fast and in a luxuriant manner, but Schiff, Schepkin, and Koroliov don't come close. The other versions are very good. I'd just like to mention that Anderszewski employs a very wide dynamic range that, although initially startling, is very effective; stay close to your volume controls.

The last movement, the Echo, is joyful music with many dynamic changes of a sudden nature. Echo relates to the alternation of piano and forte volume. In addition to the interest provided by the echo, the music is inherently vivacious and delightful. Tureck is fantastic with the echo effect without any loss of momentum. Schiff is great with outstanding pacing and the most vivacious performance. Woolley and Gilbert each provide an infectious swagger and echo effect. Schepkin and Koroliov are too fast with insufficient dynamic range. Aldwell and Anderszewski have the wide range, but their performances have a clumsy/halting element which I'm sure they would consider something very different.

Except for Schiff and Schepkin, each version is readily commendable. Schepkin's version is very fast with loss of significant poetry and detail; also, he has a tendency to be fussy with his ornamentations. Schiff is fussy as well and too cute for his own good. Oh well, these gentlemen make their own intepretive decisions; I just am not impressed with them.

Anderszewski gives a very fine performance with no trace of the ordinary about it. He is creative and clearly has thought out his conception of each movmement. Aldwell's version is just a little better; although he tends toward slower tempos, Aldwell is also not predictable. He is, however, an excellent Bach pianist of depth. Tureck is at Aldwell's level. I'm a little surprised she doesn't lead the pack but, upon reflection, that is likely due to my feeling that she plays Bach in a rather clinical and precise manner which might not mesh perfectly with all the ornamentation and luxuriant nature of the French Overture.

The two harpsichord versions by Gilbert and Woolley are my favorite performances. They are fully idiomatic, often provide infectious pacing, have tempos largely in the moderate range, and their harpsichord sound is very inviting. Their advantages are not large, however, and every version not withstanding Schiff and Schepkin is highly rewarding.

The semi-subject of this survey, Koroliov, does an excellent job. He's generally on the slow and reflective side, but he has no problem revving up the heat when necessary. An interpretive decision here and there isn't to my liking, but Koroliov usually wins my heart. His recorded sound is superb as it was for his Goldberg Variations. This is a fine recorded performance which I'll be playing often.

 

Part 2

Donald Satz wrote (July 10, 2000):
Bach's Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue, BWV 903 is a stunning masterpiece of the keyboard literature. Why "chromatic"? - because the music frequently strays far afield form its home key of D minor. The Fantasia, in this case, refers to a prelude of freely constructed musical form which is followed, in this work, by a relatively strict fugue. The Fantasia has three sections: toccata, recitative, and combination of the two, while the Fugue has three voices.

Bach might have started the work in Cothen in the 1720's but its finished form as we know it comes from Leipzig many years later. I think of this work as a wild creation of harmonic daring. It is very strong, dramatic, and authoritative music of great virtuosity. Its combination of complexity and musical inspiration never ceases to amaze, especially with the Fantasia representing written-out improvisation. Another fantastic feature of the work is, for me, the occult world which I feel from the Fugue. Whenever I listen to a version which I find excellent, I get the sensation that the underworld has risen to take over the the world of the living.

Woolley and, of course, Koroliov are back from the French Overture survey. The other versions for comparison are:

Maggie Cole (harpsichord) - Virgin 90712 (now reissued on a bargain 2-CD set).
Igor Kipnis (harpsichord) - Arabesque 6577.
Angela Hewitt (piano) - Hyperion 66746.
Joseph Banowitz (piano) - Naxos 8550066.
Robert Aldwinkle(harp.) - MCA 5924.

Before doing the survey, I should relate my view that the harpsichord starts out with a possible advantage over the piano. The Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue is highly angular in form and when that feature is combined with the devilish mood of the Fugue, I think the stage is perfect for the harpsichord. But, I love the piano and am looking forward to hearing how the three surveyed versions deal with this music.

Among the piano versions, Banowetz can't really compete with Hewitt or Koroliov. Banowetz plays the notes well and provides some beautiful music-making but glides on the surface of the music. There is no underworld in this reading. What I like most about the recording is the sound stage; it's rather stark and clean with the piano sounding well detailed. I think that most of the angularity of the performance comes from the sound, not Banowetz. Overall, this is not one of the better versions, but it does have much to offer and is enjoyable. I could very well end up feeling that it's a great version for auto travel, and listening time in the car is no small matter.

A list member had posted me privately ansaid, concerning one of my surveys of a work with many movements, that I was well on my way to a complete mix and match among all the versions. Although the subject work only has, in effect, two movements, I feel that way with Hewitt and Koroliov. Koroliov's Fantasia has tremendous clarity, detail, and weight. It's also very poetic and lyrical, but the strength and detail of the performance is what makes it a majestic interpretation. Hewitt's Fantasia is much less detailed than Koroliov's; her fast trills are somewhat blurred (her or the sound); the reading has some fine passages but my overall impression is that this version is not highly distinctive. Concerning the Fugue, this is the perfect music for cranking up the volume and entering a world of high excitement and danger. A great performance turns up the heat and mystery and doesn't let you go. That's what Hewitt does, and it's quite an experience to listen to her. By contrast, Koroliov habitually gets soft; momentum is lost and intensity ruined when this happens. So, put together Koroliov's Fantasia and Hewitt's Fugue as you've got one transcendent performance. But, you have to buy both to get this combination. That's what I did, and I'd do it again without hesitation.

On to the Harpsichord. Maggie Cole is quite good, and listening in isolation, she might sound even better. But playing Woolley's version along-side Cole's allows me to hear that something's missing. And I think that it's a mastery of the idiom and pacing that's a little lacking. However, Cole is definitely preferable to Banowetz. She digs into the work intensely and is very successful. Aldwinkle is also very good. He's fast in the Fantasia with a little loss of detail, but his slow tempo in the Fugue works beautifully without sacrificing momentum.

Both Woolly and Gilbert are on the high level of Hewitt and Koroliov. They don't quite reach the "special character" of these piano versions but are more consistently excellent with great pacing, drama, and detail. In my opinion, these four versions are the ones to have. And, so far, Koroliov's recording is looking very good - two works performed excellently.

 

Part 3

Donald Satz wrote (July 13, 2000):
Bach's Four Duets (BWV 802-805) are part of his Klavierbung Three where all the music, with the exception of the Duets, is based on chorales. The creation of these four pieces and insertion in the Klavierbung Three is somewhat of a mystery. Were the Duets inserted at the last moment for "exercise" purposes? Were they intended to be performed on the organ? There are no clear answers, but I think it's fair to say that they don't appear to have an integral link with the other music of the Klavierbung Three.

Some consider the Duets to be unjustly neglected. However, they are recorded with some frequency. As to form, each duet is in two parts/voices and involves much chromatic writing, invertible counterpoint, and great polyphonic intricacies. The Duets are arranged in ascending keys and possess four different meters. It is viable to think of the Duets as additions to the Two Part Inventions written by Bach about twenty years earlier.

In addition to the Koroliov version, the comparison versions include recordings already used in Part I and/or Part II of the Kororliov reviews - Gilbert, Woolley, Schepkin, and Tureck. The three new entrants in the survey are:

Tatiana Nikolayeva - Hyperion 66631/2 (coupled with Art of Fugue).
Angela Hewitt - DG 419218 (coupled with other short works).
Peter Serkin - RCA 68594 (coupled with the Inventions/Sinfonias).

Duet in E minor, BWV 802 - This duet is dance-like in nature and provides much invertible counterpoint. I'm rather fussy about what I want from the performance: a great deal of nuance, a strong stature, mystery, and soft to moderate volume. I was very surprised at my reaction to five of the versions: Tureck, Woolley, Serkin, Gilbert, and Koroliov. I didn't like them at all. I found Tureck painfully slow and uninteresting, Woolley was acceptable but too straight-forward, Serkin sounded rushed and not interested, Gilbert's sound was "in your face" and when I got rid of that problem, I discovered that the performance was stodgy, and Koroliov actually became bellicose at times. One aspect of their performances which was in common was that each one gave me the perception that scales were being played - that's not good.

That leaves just three versions which I can recommend. Schepkin's is a fine performance with excellent nuances and a fair degree of stature and mystery. But Hewitt is also highly nuanced with a hushed mystery which easily eclipses the Schepkin version. Nikolayeva is the equal of Hewitt with a very different reading which is stark, aristocratic, and loaded with stature. She also is best at highlighting the ever interesting interplay between the two voices.

Duet in F major, BWV 803 - This duet is a two part fugue in ABA form. The first part is strong and joyful, the second part is in the minor mode and highly chromatic with stretti, inversion, and double counterpoint. I find the second part most enjoyable when played with a high level of angularity, and only two versions (Woolley and Koroliov) deliver on that score and provide a highly interesting reading. Woolley is also superb in the joyous first part, but Koroliov allows a fast pace to lessen the poetry and the joy. Tureck's first part is revelatory in its pacing and attention to detail. Hewitt is equally effective in the first part with a fast pace and lyricism that's infectious; she well reveals the drawbacks in Koroliov's first part. So, Woolley is best, with Koroliov, Tureck, and Hewitt having much to offer. The remaining versions do well with the first part but have little impact in the second part.

Duet in G major, BWV 804 - The G major Duet is a Siciliano which is joyous in nature with a little mystery thrown in for good measure. The semiquaver parts add much to the impact and joy of the music. Although worthwhile, six versions had some problems: Serkin and Tureck are too soft-focused, Koroliov sounds disjointed and rushed, Woolley has choppy pacing, Schepkin is fussy, and Nikolayeva is rather lifeless. Actually, her performance is quite similar to Hewitt's except that Hewitt delivers a vitality and mystery that eludes Nikolayeva. Hewitt's version is also eventful and exciting; in addition, it sounds better as the volume is increased (always a great sign).

Equal to Hewitt is Mr. Gilbert. To get the best of Gilbert, I had to reduce the treble controls significantly and increase the bass response; at my usual settings, the music was fierce and piercing. Once done with the adjustments, I was listening to a performance of great momentum and flow; Gilbert figuratively takes the most efficient route between two points. In terms of flow, it's as if the Ferris Wheel just keeps going round and round as the family enjoys its outing at the carnival. Or you can imagine that the speed is going out of control, and that a person you can't stand is in one of the seats (sounds like a winner to me). The "out of control" aspect actually happened to my wife and daughter many years ago, and it was the scariest time of my adult life. Even though Gilbert is bringing back that memory, I still love his version.

Duet in A minor, BWV 805 - This is my favorite Bach Duet. It easily accomodates a variety of interpretations and tempos. A two part fugue, the music has great emotional depth and breadth. It is stunningly beautiful, tender, mysterious, lyrical, and joyful. Tureck and Hewitt were the first to be removed from the stack. Regardless of Tureck's performance, she can hardly be heard in the softer passages. That required of me the task of frequently adjusting the volume so that the other passages wouldn't injure my eardrum, and I got tired of the chore and wasn't enjoying the music. Hewitt is the fastest, and it doesn't help matters. Details and eare reduced; attention is focused on speed. Further, her performance is a stern one, and I don't feel that this music meshes well with that approach. Frankly, I'm surprised at her interpretive decisons with this duet.

Much better are Woolley and Gilbert. They are similar in enjoyment although Woolley is almost as fast as Hewitt. Both harpsichord versions provide a swaggering joy that's impossible to resist.

Schepkin, Koroliov, Serkin, and Nikolayeva each bring a consistent distinction to the A minor Duet which raises them to the top level. Serkin's reading is so delicate and eventful at about three minutes. With a similar tempo, Schepkin is beautifully elegant and constantly interesting. Nikolayeva slows down the pace to four minutes, and expertly highlights the voice interplay while delivering a reading of stature, drama, joy, and poetry. Koroliov luxuriates in the music with a six minute performance (Hewitt is about two minutes). Dangerous though this may be, he succeeds superbly. I never lost interest and was consistently provided new insights - his version is a feast.

If Hewitt had stayed on the path she took with the first three duets, her version would be a clear best. As it is, I still think hers best represents the spirit of the music, and she's the sole pianist of the group to give excellent readings in three of the four duets. All the others have much to offer with the exception of Tureck. I didn't feel that any of her versions were excellent. Much of that could be due to the sound; there is tendency for the soft notes to fade out which really hit its peak in the fourth duet.

If I had to pick a 2nd best version, I'd go with Nikolayeva who is superb in the first and fourth duet.

Koroliov does as well in the Duets as most of the other versions. His outstanding fourth duet raised his overall performance substantially. With two works remaining to be reviewed, Koroliov's disc is very appealing.

 

Part 4

Donald Satz wrote (July 15, 2000):
Bach's Italian Concerto in F major (BWV 971) was published in Leipzig in 1735 as part of the Klavierbung Two which also includes the French Overture. Bach was obviously a man for all seasons. The Italian Concerto transposes to the solo keyboard the style of a Vivaldi solo concerto with outer movements built on the ritornello principle which is just the alternation/opposition between the solo instrument and the orchestral tutti. The second movement is in the fashion of an accompanied aria.

I have read that Bach obviously thought very highly of Vivaldi since he wrote works based on the Vivaldi style. Yes, he borrowed the Vivaldi style but made it entirely his own. What impresses me greatly is that Bach takes a style based on solo instruments against an orchestra, and composes a solo keyboard composition for a 2-manual harpsichord. The result is outstanding music.

I have ten versions to compare with Koroliov's: Gould, Tureck, Hewitt, Woolley, Gilbert, Serkin, Cole, Aldwinkle, Schiff, and Banowetz. The only recording not yet used in my Koroliov reviews is the Gould on CBS Odyssey (MBK 42527).

The first movement is often identified as "Allegro", but Bach did not leave us with a tempo indication. I had an expectation that the tempo variations among the versions would be significant, and I was looking forward to it. Alas, the range of tempos is small; even Tureck doesn't take the opportunity to apply the brakes, and Gould stays away from the fast lane. These folks are unpredicatable.

In addition to the poetry and lyricism of the first movement, there are crucial elements of strength, urgency, and momentum. I was surprised at the number of versions which essentially missed those elements. Six versions did not make the first cut: Hewitt and Koroliov are too "soft" and they both tended to play softer when I wanted it louder, Serkin is soft and fussy, Aldwinkle displays little urgency or strength, Banowetz is much too weak and has trouble keeping his hands in unison (bass notes a particular problem), and Woolley is short on poetry.

maggie Cole's performance is relatively quick and straight-forward. Her poetry and lyricism are admirable; strength and urgency is ample, and she never loses momentum. Gilbert is slower with superb accenting, but I would have liked a little faster tempo and there are a few awkward moments. Schiff also has some awkward passages, but there's also great momentum and urgency in his reading. Gould delivers his usual high degree of clarity; the interplay between the voices is outstanding. He basically gives me everything I could want from the music including ample poetry and lyricism. Tureck is also at this high level with a tempo similar to Gould. Although the problem of projection of the softer passages is still problematic, her outstanding interpretation overcomes it. So, it's Gould and Tureck, followed by Cole, Gilbert, and Schiff. The other versions of the first movement are forgettable.

The second movement is an outstanding Andante. I wrote the following adjectives as I was listening to the piece: pristine, pure, tense, urgent, tender, nostalgic, beautiful, delicate, and conversational. Lionel Salter wrote the liner notes for the Woolley recording and gave his description of the movement:

"Over a constant figure of four notes, usually in thirds, followed by two quasi-pizzicato bass notes, there floats a highly ornate and rhapsodic coloratura melody of poignant beauty akin th the elaborate lines Bach often gives in the cantatas to a solo oboe."

I had a significant problem with Tureck's version beyond the "soft sound" matter. She indulges in some high drama in the middle section which I found jarring and not well integrated into the fabric of the piece. So, I surprisingly am saying that every other version is better than her's. Actually, the level of performance of most of the recordings is great. I love seven of them: Woolley, Koroliov, Gould, Banowetz, Hewitt, Aldwinkle, and Schiff. Woolley and Aldwinkle have superb pacing, Koroliov and Gould provide similarly outstanding and very slow interpretations, Hewitt gives an excellent mainstream performance, Schiff entirely eschews his frequent mannerisms and reveals how good he can be, and Banowetz apparently feels much more at home with a slow movement as he delivers great emotional impact and a fantastic conversational atmosphere. Three versions (Cole, Gilbert,Serkin) did well without particularly stirring my soul.

The third movement, Presto, is highly energetic, joyful, and extrovert; forward momentum is a crucial factor. Although technically challenging, I consider the Presto much less of an interpretive challenge than the first two movements. Banowetz and Woolley are my favorite versions. Each scores highly with the four aspects I mentioned above and provide consistently exciting and interesting performances. The remaining versions are all enjoyable but a little lacking in momentum and /or excitement.

I don't think that any of the versions offer a throughly excellent Italian Concerto, but three are excellent in two movements: Banowetz, Woolley, and Gould. Koroliov does fairly well overall because of his splendid Andante, but his outer movements are not distinguished. The one version that has mimimal traces of excellence is Serkin's.

The remaining work from the Koroliov disc is the Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 906. This work has many manuscript sources, and it has been difficult to clarify the relationship among them. It does appear that the Fantasia was written about nine years before the Fugue. Both pieces are highly chromatic and might help explain how they became joined. Koroliov performs both sections as does Igor Kipnis on Arabesque. Hewitt (on Hyperion, not DG) and Banowetz just provide the Fantasia. I found it interesting that the Hewitt liner notes make not mention of the Fugue at all, and the Banowetz notes call it the "Fantasia and Fugue" but give no reason for leaving out the Fugue. And people get paid for writing this stuff?

Both the Fantasia and the Fugue are wonderful and complicated music. Each gives me an eerie sensation, the Fantasia in a powerful fashion and the Fugue in a subdued m. Although Koroliov and Hewitt do well with the Fantasia, I prefer Kipnis and Banowetz. Kipnis provides a lot of abandon and tenderness, and Banowetz gets every ounce of beauty out of the music. In the Fugue, Kipnis takes twice as long as Koroliov because, instead of ending the piece in its unfinished state, he repeats the A section and adds a few passages of his own. I like that much better; it makes the music "complete" and Kipnis does it superbly. Although Kipnis gets my top recommendation, I would not want to be without Koroliov or Banowetz. I feel that Hewitt is superfluous in this company.

With the comparisons done, I can confidently recommend Koroliov's new recording. I think that any serious record collector of Bach on the piano would want this fine set of performances. Koroliov is always musical and interesting; he often is not in the mainstream, and his decisions are usually good ones. His recorded sound is outstanding, a feature which I'm noticing frequently with Hänssler keyboard recordings. But, this disc does not lift Koroliov to the top of the Bach performing ladder. He was not outstanding overall in any of the five works. I would categorize his performances on the disc and others of his I have listened to as "highly competitive"

Don's Conclusion: A fine recording that provides much pleasure and insight.

 

Duets BWV 802-805: Details
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Part 1
Reviews of Individual Recordings:
Duets - A. Hewitt | Duets - E. Koroliov | Duets - Steurman | Duets - M. Suzuki | Duets - R. Tureck | Duets - G. Weir

Evgeni Koroliov: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach’s Two and Three Part Inventions from Koroliov | Bach Keyboard Works From Koroliov (4 Parts)

Instrumental Works: Recordings, Reviews & Discussions - Main Page | Order of Discussion
Recording Reviews of Instrumental Works: Main Page | Organ | Keyboard | Solo Instrumental | Chamber | Orchestral, MO, AOF
Performers of Instrumental Works: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
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Last update: ýSeptember 24, 2006 ý15:33:01