Just finished recording before a live audience From the Top Show #340, a program wholly devoted to Jewish music (Ravel: Kaddish, for one) and music by Jewish composers (Copland, Gershwin arr.Heifetz, Milhaud).
My break piece was the first of Bach’s 48 Preludes & Fugues. I’ve decided, after having performed his Goldberg Variations this season, that I can’t live without working on Bach every day. Part of the inspiration for my new-found love of his music above all others is having read, when it came out, John Eliot Gardiner’s definitive Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven while listening to all of the Cantatas, Passions and Mass in the Bach 2000 Edition conducted by my favorite conductor of all time, Nikolaus Harnoncourt. It’s common knowledge (but unfortunately doesn’t translate to common practice) that Bach was first and foremost a composer of sung music. And yet, pianists of the present either opt for a set-it-and-forget-it articulation style, or go whole hog and play the music like some Stokowski transcription. It was a revelation to realize that there are as many articulations as there are syllables in the German language, and also that the harpsichord, with its circumscribed palette of expression, has a lot to offer a pianistic approach to playing Bach’s keyboard music. I remember Andras Schiff’s first, harpsichord-informed recording of the Goldbergs in which we heard lines given some wind behind them to create impassioned impetus, a wide variety of articulations in simultaneous distinctions from accompanying lines, agogic breaths to create a momentary suspension of disbelief. That kind of boundless possibility engendered an inspiring day’s work throughout my work on the Goldbergs, and will now fuel my inspiration in taking on the whole of the WTC, which I will roll out in live recording on From the Top broadcasts (well, the broadcasts will only feature 30seconds; our podcasts will offer the whole performances). No more Radiohead.
I recently did the Goldbergs twice in one evening at the invitation of St Paul’s Schubert Club (thanks, Barry Kempton!), and the piano was so lovely we made sure both performances were recorded. I hope to offer my Goldbergs sometime soon to the public. Stay tuned.
For now, enjoy today’s performance.