BACH: 5 Klavier Concertos – Ramin Bahrami, p./Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch./Riccardo Chailly – Decca

by | Aug 22, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BACH: 5 Klavier-Konzerte = No. 1 in D Minor, BWV 1052; No. 2 in E Major, BWV 1053; No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1054; No. 4 in A Major, BWV 1055; No. 5 in F Minor, BWV 1056 – Ramin Bahrami, piano/Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch. /Riccardo Chailly – Decca 478 2956, 74:42 [Distr. By Universal] ****:
I recently mentioned in my assessment of the Murray Perahia survey of the complete Bach klavier concertos the manic speed of the legendary 1958 performance of the D Minor Concerto from the Concertgebouw with Glenn Gould and Dimitri Mitropoulos. And here am I, listening to a young Iranian virtuoso Ramin Bahrami (b. 1976) and veteran Riccardo Chailly from Leipzig (29 May 2009) in their blistering rendition. Bahrami uses the pedal sparingly if at all, and the Gewandhaus players eschew vibrato to produce a dry, biting style. Breathless and inflamed, the last movement Allegro radiates an energy that music–when vital and exhilarated enough–can bestow streams of light. The hushed mystery of the Adagio suggests a melancholy oasis in the midst of two emotional storms, the orchestral tissue a compromise between the “original” instruments aesthetic and the fuller modern sonority.
Happily lithe, the E Major Concerto (1739) bubbles with good spirits, although I find Bahrami a bit bass-heavy in his strongly articulated keyboard part.  The Siciliano conveys a kind of spectral beauty, especially in the strings’ slides in the perpetually evolving melodic line. Unbridled virtuosity marks the last movement Allegro, with Bahrami’s rather punching the staccato notes over a limpid flurry of running figures and then demonstrating the clean lines in Bach’s even-handed counterpoint. The opening three notes of the transcribed E Major Violin Concerto as a D Major Klavier Concerto take on a musing, weak-beat affect that gives way to the extroverted interchanges of the Allegro proper. Bahrami slows down the central section to emphasize the plastic concertante interweaving of the horizontal lines with Chailly’s crisp ensemble. The Adagio e piano sempre brings out Bahrami’s legato playing as a pearly entity that requires no false glitter to make a noble impression.
The A Major Concerto (1741) enjoys an infectious impetus–by way of spiccato string accents–in the opening Allegro that captivates our musical fancy at once. The short-against- long phrases in the Larghetto create a devotional atmosphere we might ascribe to one of Bach’s sacred choruses. Some lovely gradations of strong dynamics from Chailly add to the numinous affect. Some truly galvanized running notes and ornaments urge the Allegro ma non tanto’s cantering gavotte in mesmerizing eddies of sound, lush and erotically tinted. The concentrated pathos of the F Minor Concerto (1742) has always compelled listeners, and Edwin Fischer’s  inscription still serves as the high watermark interpretation. Bahrami and Chailly up the tempo of the first movement, suavely impelling its dark hues with poignant clarity. The exquisite gem, the Largo, sets the lovely keyboard parlando over hushed plucked strings that illumine the song’s artful simplicity. Barhrami claims to detect klezmer motifs in the string accompaniment in the rousing Presto finale, and so his realization dances and sings with that blend of East and West which, in Kipling’s conceit, two strong men stand face to face.
—Gary Lemco

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