Fugue: Bach and His Forerunners – Colin Tilney, harpsichord – Music & Arts

by | Oct 3, 2009 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Fugue: Bach and His Forerunners – Colin Tilney, harpsichord – Music & Arts 1226, 66:31 ***1/2: [Distrib. by Albany]

If I am reading the notes to this disc properly, Colin Tilney’s goal in excising some of the Bach Art of Fugue and interspersing it with music that Bach would have known and possibly loved is to bring more listeners into this magical world, though it is fraught with difficulties. The piece is tonally dormant (D-minor), rhythmically stilted (very measured and almost stately with little change) and inordinately complex, perhaps the most complex tonal music the world has seen. However, the pieces that are chosen to contrast with the Bach are also played at this same measured pace and offer too little dissimilarity to the great work itself. I do understand the desire to make the piece a little more palatable; after all, many claim to admire it intensely but I have seen few references to anyone loving this work. Yet I am afraid that, for all Mr. Tilney’s intentions and high musical skills—and they are considerable—this Bach sampler will probably not have the intended effect. By now, this piece has been recorded and played umpteen times on umpteen instruments, and virtually everyone has a favorite. I get tired by the time Art of Fugue ends, no matter who is playing it, and despite the fact that, like tasteless food, it is probably good for me. But I felt the same sense of fatigue at the end of this album as well, which tells me that the theory might not hold water, despite the excellent intentions behind the concept.

However, if it appeals there are few harpsichordists in the world with Mr. Tilney’s skill and musicality, so don’t hesitate. But if it is the Bach you are really interested in, take your medicine and go for the original, no matter the platform.

BACH: Contrapunctus 1; Contrapunctus 2; Contrapunctus 3
COUPERIN: Prelude in D minor
BACH: Contrapunctus 4; Contrapunctus 5
FRESCOBALDI: Capriccio la, sol, fa, mi, re, do
GABRIELI: Fuga del nono Tono
BACH: Contrapunctus 8; Contrapunctus 9; Contrapunctus 11
FROBERGER: Ricercar 5

— Steven Ritter

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