The dynamic interplay of pianists Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe lends a tantalizing new dimension to Bach’s unmatched counterpoint on this expansive portrait of classical music’s most omnipotent figure. The Art of Bach will be available in January 2015.
“The most dynamic duo of this generation” (San Francisco Classical Review) offers a unique optic into the infinite genius of Bach on their newest album from the Steinway & Sons label aptly titled The Art of Bach. Spinning out from Bach’s only original works for two harpsichords — the Concerto in C Major and a revised version of the Contrapunctus XIII from The Art of the Fugue appendix, performed here on pianos — the album traverses his secular, scholarly and sacred works offering a vibrant portrait of Bach, who was, among other things, a master of counterpoint, a mathematical trickster and a transcendent spirit with a seemingly direct line to the heavens.
The recording is bookended by two luminous 20th-century transcriptions: György Kurtág’s poignant four-hand arrangement of Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106 and Max Reger’s spirited four-hand version of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, with an improvised middle movement. In between, Anderson & Roe explore every facet of Bach’s unparalleled musical oeuvre. In addition to the Brandenburg, Bach’s secular output is explored through the dizzying fortspinnung (“spinning forth”) of the Concerto for Two Harpsichords in C Major (BWV 1061) and Mary Howe’s 1930s arrangements of the pastoral Sheep May Safely Graze, whose seemingly religious connotations belie its original function as a piece of dinner theater.
Bach’s sacred works, capable of stirring spiritual sentiments in even the staunchest of skeptics, are represented here by Anderson & Roe’s sophisticated transcription of key movements from The St. Matthew Passion; violinist Augustin Hadelich joins the duo for a transcendent take on the meditative Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händen from one of Bach’s early cantatas.
Anderson & Roe round out their portrait of Bach with effervescent excerpts from The Art of the Fugue and the Goldberg Variations, showcasing Bach the Scholar’s penchant for compositional games in which melodies twist, fold, stretch, flip, reverse, and layer upon themselves.