There is a long and noble tradition of Bach
interpretation on the piano, and Youri Egorov, who died tragically
young, makes an interesting contribution to its literature.
He has both the technical resource and the musical imagination
to make an expressive point in the service of Bach's remarkable
and truly indestructible music. And taken as a recital, judged
on its own terms, his performance gives much pleasure. The recorded
sound is ambient, with a pleasing perspective which gives clarity
to dynamic shadings. These things are just what is required
for Bach's keyboard music.
However, there are some significant drawbacks,
which are sufficient to put the disc out of court as a recommendation.
First of all, it plays for a mere 37 minutes, roughly half what
the prospective purchaser is likely to encounter elsewhere.
Then the documentation is thin, to put it mildly. There is nothing
whatsoever about the music, only a badly translated and poorly
proofed biography of the artist. As if to compound that problem
with production standards, neither the three Preludes and Fugues
nor the Italian Concerto is given separate cue-points for individual
movements, thus making it difficult for the listener to locate
individual sections of the music. These things may have happened
during the early days of CD, but they are unacceptable today.
The most interesting performance is that of
the B minor Prelude and Fugue (No. 24 of Book 1). Egorov takes
a boldly slow tempo for both sections, to the extent that some
might find his interpretation bizarre. It would be impossible
to perform the music this way on the harpsichord, the instrument
for which Bach conceived it, and as such the tempo and the withdrawn
pianissimo dynamic are inauthentic. Yet it is a tribute to Bach's
consummate imagination and skill that the performance achieves
a strangely mesmeric and compelling effect. Try listening to
the opening (TRACK 3 0.00) of the Prelude, and the point is
immediately made. No other performance is likely to be remotely
like it, since it lasts more than 17 minutes. The fugue only
serves to intensify the visionary experience (TRACK 3 14.23),
making a slow but inexorable progress of remarkable concentration.
After this the Italian Concerto (TRACK 4 0.00)
lifts the clouds and is altogether more 'normal' as an interpretation.
In fact it is thoroughly uplifting. Although this is a challenging
CD recital, full of interest, it is pity that its brevity and
the spectacularly poor production standards undermine it as
a competitive commercial proposition.