Leitao is a marvelous Bachian, proven in every measure.

BACH: Keyboard Partita No.2 in C minor, BWV 826; Italian Concerto in F major, BWV 971; Selections from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books I & II; Chaconne from Violin Partita No.2, BWV 1004 (trans. Busoni) – Simone Leitao, p – MSR Classics 1665, 57:24 *****:

Simone Leitao may not have been a student of Glenn Gould (she studied with Ivan Davis, Geir Braaten, and Linda Bustani), but the beautiful 48-year-old Brazilian certainly sounds more like him than any recent pianist I have heard. Her articulation, particularly, seems representative of the Gouldian ethos, short and clean, yet pregnant with tonal beauty and exceptional clarity. It surprised me greatly, pleasantly, as I am a confirmed Gould fan.

The program is also quite cut from the Gould playlist, starting with a riveting presentation of the Partita No.2 in C minor, always a favorite of the late great Canadian. Leitao takes it with the dance titles in mind, and offers an engaging and superbly personal performance.  The Italian Concerto is another Gould staple—though he professed to not like it much—and Leitao’s tempi are remarkably close to Gould, especially the non-manic and measured first movement.

According to the notes, this program, which is not exactly as structured or logical as most Bach releases, comprises music that has great personal meaning to the artist, of which she is very familiar and deeply in love. It shows—there is not a moment on this disc where my ears suffered any sort of fatigue or lack of interest. All is beautiful and perfectly in place. The WTC items are short and apropos, nice blips in the conversation.

Finally, she wisely includes the beloved Chaconne in the best available arrangement, that of Ferruccio Busoni. Busoni, of course, was a monster pianist and overbearing composer of late romantic style, but who loved Bach and gave his masterwork a contemporary yet thoroughly idiomatic rendering. My favorite has always been the RCA recording of Arthur Rubinstein, but I must admit that Leitao tops him in passion and emotional content while still letting the essence of Bach shine thorough. Altogether, a real digital delight.

Great sound, great playing. Get this!

—Steven Ritter