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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Complete Keyboard Concertos

Concerto No.1 in D minor BWV 1052
Concerto No.2 in E major BWV 1053
Concerto No.3 in D major BWV 1054
Concerto No.4 in A major BWV 1055
Concerto No.5 in F minor BWV 1056
Concerto No.7 in G minor BWV 1058
Concerto with two flutes No.6 in F major BWV 1057
Francesco Tristano Schlimé (piano and conductor)
The New Bach Players
Recorded live in the Arsenal in Metz, October 8th 2002
CD ACCORD ACD 127-2 [53.18 + 47.46]


Francesco Tristano Schlimé and the New Bach Players – all young to judge from the concert photographs and dressed in fashionable black outfits – have a great deal of stamina and concentration. They presented their all-Bach Concertos programme a few times and this one was recorded in the Arsenal in Metz,. The band is international (from the USA to Australia to Uzbekistan and stops in between), the soloist-director is from Luxembourg, the record label is Polish and the booklet notes are trilingual (English, French, Polish).

The seven keyboard concertos concert was a Gouldian one according to the notes – one that surely reflects the obsessively Bachian aspect rather than any particular similarities between the playing. Schlimé has referred to his great admiration for the Canadian pianist and the notes rather ominously relate that he has been "compared as a spiritual heir." Let’s hope not – Schlimé is only twenty-three and the idea is unhelpful to him, burdensome and inappropriate.

The New Bach Players number sixteen - including the flutes for BWV 1057 – otherwise they’re constituted 8-3-2-1. They play modern instruments but with awareness of baroque practice and what is referred to as an infusion of jazz spirit. I’m not quite sure about this – it may as well refer to some of Schlimé’s passagework that has a rippling momentum and a rhythmic particularity that sometimes startle. The D minor Concerto takes a bit of time to get going and the slow movement has a filliping rather naughtily phrased wit, and the finale sports a huge rallentando in the very difficult cadenza – very difficult to judge this properly – which tends to derail momentum; in his commercial recording Gould was never this dramatic, and I must say I find it youthfully unconvincing. The First Concerto is of a piece with the remainder of the works – some rather rhetorical phrasing, somewhat noncommittal and aloof slow movements (forget Edwin Fischer’s nobility), very aggressive pizzicati in the Largo of the F minor – little inwardness here or singing tone – and in fact not much of Gould’s grandeur (for all his staccatissimo phrasing and the obvious differences, Gould aligned himself more than one might imagine to Fischer’s sense of the grand in these work). I felt consistently throughout that the slow movements were harried.

The piano is balanced slightly too forward in the sound spectrum. One for admirers, this – others will remain with such as Perahia and Schiff in their various recordings amongst modern readings.

Jonathan Woolf


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