Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


CD REVIEW

Some items
to consider


New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

 

Availability
Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS

 

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II, BWV 870-893 (1738-1742) 
Sergey Schepkin (piano)
rec. 12-13 January 1998, 24 November 1999, New England Conservatory, Jordan Hall, Boston, MA. DDD
ONGAKU RECORDS 024-115 [70:51 + 73:01]
Experience Classicsonline

Five years on from his debut recording of the Goldberg Variations, and the booklet notes pick up on the conversation which Sergey Schepkin was having on the subject of Bach on the piano with J. Quentin Parker. This interview device for booklet notes is very useful when it is the ideas of the performer which count most, in music which is so well known that it almost runs the risk of becoming aural wallpaper. Schepkin does however go into quite some detail with the inner mechanics of the music, and the reasons for some of his artistic decisions based on pre-existing historical knowledge.

I was inspired to request this set for review after hearing some samples over the internet, and reading the booklet notes I now know part of the reason the music seemed to speak to me so directly. Schepkin’s approach to the Well-Tempered Clavier owes more to that of Sviatoslav Richter than to Glenn Gould, and it is this set on RCA GD 60949 which has been one of my desert island recordings since I was a teenager, having first bought it as a Melodiya box set on LPs. I have to admit preferring Richter’s Book I to his Book II, but his is still my reference in this music on piano.

In Schepkin’s own words, "I tried to be true to Bach’s style the way I understand it, to Bach’s forms and textures the way I hear them, and to Bach’s spirit the way I feel it." There are inevitable romantic associations when hearing this music played on the piano, but these are often musical/semantic impressions based on the sound of the instrument – hopefully more so than in that of the playing. Schepkin admits "Bach’s music is expressive and romantic!" He never falls into what one might call ‘romanticism’ however, and the musical message of each prelude and fugue is unencumbered with irritating rubati or other mannerisms one would associate with a later age. I don’t think we need to be too precious about a ‘romantic’ approach to Bach’s music. Anyone who could father 20 children had to have some romantic spirit, and so it is the overall effect of the music which is most important – assuming, as Schepkin has, the performing practice and expectations of the time are taken into consideration.

Returning to Richter’s set; I began by asking myself why I felt it any less good than his Book I. The recording is a little less vibrant for some reason, and this is an advantage which Schepkin’s recording has as a given – the Ongaku sound is truly excellent. It’s also nothing to do with preferring Book I to Book II, as I’ve come across with some colleagues in the past. I’ve always felt Book II of the Well-Tempered Clavier to be underrated, and listening to Richter with fresh ears I find his colour, voicing and phrasing still to be both impressively and easily virtuosic. There is however a sense that the enveloping warmth which invites you to inhabit Book I like a favourite set of clothes is a little further removed in Book II. This is something hard to put into words, but the fierceness of attack seems that much more brutal, the more gentle movements just a fraction more superficial. This not always the case, there is still much wonder and beauty to be had throughout, and this is just my subjective impression when comparing the two books.

Not having Schepkin’s Book I, yet, I cannot comment on any differences between these two. Schepkin does outline the essential differences between the two books however, and as they are 20 years apart in J.S. Bach’s oeuvre there are a number of stylistic developments which makes Book II less clear-cut as an interpretative whole. Without going into too much detail, Schepkin is attuned to the more galant and extra-baroque expressive features in the music, and to the advances in counterpoint which takes Book II that much further than Book I in terms of sophistication and an expansion beyond the more ‘liturgical’ background which infuses the earlier set. The more strictly rhythmic pieces such as the Prelude and Fugue XV in G are taken with impeccable regularity, and the expressive freedoms which Schepkin allows himself elsewhere are entirely idiomatic and part of the organic flow of the music. Taking something like the Prelude and Fugue XVII in A flat, this gorgeous pairing has little lifts in the flow of the tempo throughout, some give-and-take which allows the lines to sing urbanely. The essential flow of the music isn’t stretched or pushed in macro terms, but the internal recurrence of certain statements are given their full value – removing machine-like regularity without overheating or allowing any kind of sagging in each movement as a whole.

Is Schepkin the flawless Bach interpreter? From where I stand, these things all come down to a matter of taste. You may find his opening Prelude in C too slow, but just give the music a chance to convince you and that sensation soon vanishes. The same has been true of every case in which I’ve started out with a ‘?’ from this set, and these are few and far between in any case. In short, if you like Sviatoslav Richter’s Russian directness, and feel you’d like it combined with, say, Andras Schiff’s refinement of touch and warmth of expression, then you will most certainly respond to the playing of Sergey Schepkin. For me, he fills the gap left by those elusive shortcomings I’ve always felt from Richter’s Book II; and that is saying a great deal.

Dominy Clements



 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.