Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


REVIEW

Some items
to consider

 


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


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

alternatively
Crotchet

 

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Inventionen BWV 772-786 (1723) [22:08]
Sinfonien BWV 787-801 (1723) [26:39]
Französische Suite V in G-Dur BWV 816 [19:25]
Till Fellner (piano)
rec. July 2007, Mozartsaal, Wiener Konzerthaus
ECM NEW SERIES 2043 4766355
[68:11]
Experience Classicsonline


This the kind of thing which doesn’t come around very often. The last time I felt this way about a recording of J.S. Bach on the piano was when I first encountered Sviatoslav Richter’s Well-Tempered Klavier, initially on a big chunky box of Melodiya LPs bought at bargain price at Farringdon Records on Cheapside. Later it was on as a rather less attractively designed CD box from RCA/BMG, GD 60949 – since re-released. The acoustic in which the young Austrian pianist Till Fellner goes to work on the fascinating programme on this disc is not dissimilar to the Schloss Klessheim space in which Richter worked in the early 1970s. This is very well handled by the ECM tonmeister, giving enough of the acoustic to provide an attractive sense of space and transparency, while preserving the essentially warm and lyrical clarity of Fellner’s playing.

Almost all of us mere mortals of the piano have ‘had a go’ at several of the pieces on this disc. I must admit to having to rise above all those dire student memories of endlessly repeating certain Inventionen und Sinfonien, just to see if I could get from the beginning to the end without making any mistakes. The educational aspect of this music is covered in the booklet notes, but as is also pointed out, music which transcends its pedagogical intent is not uncommon, with examples such as Chopin’s Etudes through to Bartók’s Mikrokosmos and beyond. Fellner, a pianist who has studied with Alfred Brendel, and who won the Clara Haskil International Competition in 1993, made his ECM debut with Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier. He felt his performance of Book II had yet to ripen enough for a recording though, and so we are blessed with what must be one of the most remarkable ‘stop-gap’ discs of this or any year.

Fellner can not only get through each of these pieces without making mistakes, but immediately transports you out of the world of academic keyboard study and into that of sheer genuine music which with J.S. Bach, even in works with only two or three parts, is the best of all possible worlds. One of my ways of becoming acquainted with a new recording is to load it onto a portable MP3 player alongside a week’s worth of podcasts from BBC Radio 4. The music always seems to pop up somewhat unexpectedly, there being no rhyme or reason to the position of the files on these machines. So it has been that, riding my bike to or from work, these cloistered discussions on the Magna Carta of the Hubble space telescope can without warning open out into this most remarkable of musical conversations. Colours become brighter, the mental fumes blow away on an amiable sea breeze, and Dutch drivers who don’t use their indicators when turning cease to be an irritant.

Till Fellner is less wilful but no less poetic than Richter. He can be romantic at times, and this is brought out most in the slow movements of the French Suite. His tempi are on the whole fairly conservative however, by which I mean that there is rarely anything exotic or unexpected. He keeps a very accurate pulse, but has a beautifully lyrical approach which allows the shapes to flow in all the right directions. By simply following the rule of playing more legato with notes which are close together and separating the wider leaps he is already well on the way to satisfying the local piano teacher, but there is far more going on. The scores of the Inventionen and Sinfonien are conspicuously barren of markings, whether for dynamics, phrasing or legato. The pianist has to decide all of these for themselves. If you listen carefully you will hear Fellner not only shaping individual phrases into elegant peaks and troughs, but also creating marvellous forms from each musical gem – sometimes crystalline and sparkling, more often an undulating landscape which takes you on a unique journey, and always brings you safely home.

The hallmark of Fellner’s playing in Bach is his lyrical touch, which brings a vocal character to music which can more easily be made to sound aristocratic and impersonal. His melodic lines have an easy elasticity, giving and taking in tempo within the exacting and controlled proportions required to make the music sound entirely natural and organic. The lighter, more dance-like pieces such as the Invention X in G major also have a wit and a sense of joy both present and in reserve which prevents any possibility of cloy, not that there is any chance of that, but it’s not all beautiful lines – there’s a great sense of rhythm and fun here as well.

All of the above remarks were typed while the two-part Inventionen were being re-run, but all comments apply to the three-part Sinfonien as well. The warmth and clarity which characterises the two-part pieces is here in the Sinfonien, though with that extra layer of a third voice there is a sense of growth, of greater expressive potential. Fellner balances the voices superbly, and though the ‘third’ or least pronounced line at any one moment can be quite considerably more recessed than the others the smaller voice can always be heard, and is always an influence on the others. Tempi can be stretched a little more here, and Fellner indulges in a nobly spacious E flat major which gives the sustaining qualities of the piano some exercise. This is a sustain quality in the following magical E major but in a different way: in that sense that you feel the notes swelling within themselves – a sheer illusion of course, but one Richter has been known to pull off, and which I hadn’t expected to hear elsewhere. The beautiful F minor masterpiece is taken at a measured but unmannered pace, keeping the flow to a natural level at which you could imagine sung lines being taken so that breaths could be taken without strain. Each one of these pieces is a sheer joy in Till Fellner’s hands, and collectively their status seems to have been raised notches higher after hearing this recording. If you thought you could leave Bach be after the Well-Tempered Klavier then I’m afraid you need to hear this – I won’t say three voices are better than four, but they are certainly every bit as good.

The sense of growth and shape within each piece and through the harmonic development through the cycles of the Inventionen and Sinfonien is brought to a logical conclusion by the final work in this programme, the French Suite V. Bach’s counterpoint flowers into a fruitful collaboration with the dance forms in each movement of this work, and, our senses already sensitised by the previous works, this piece has every bit the sense of culmination brought in a well considered performance of the Goldberg Variations. Fellner’s expressive sense of melodic line is given a freer rein in this work, and the more romantic senses are allowed a touch more space in movements such as the Sarabande. None of this means Fellner is turning his Bach into Brahms, but it does mean that his playing is less brittle than Ivo Pogorelich as a more or less random instance, and has a good deal more warmth and welcoming character than someone like Glenn Gould. Some fine, playful touches of extra ornamentation grace a witty Gavotte, but as ever, Fellner remains restrained and tasteful. I did feel there was a little tightness in some of his trills earlier on in the disc, but in the French Suite they have a very relaxed and spontaneous feel.

ECM’s presentation for this disc is good, with some nice facsimile reproductions and an interesting essay by Jürg Stenzl. Apart from a few photos there is however no information on Till Fellner whatsoever. Aside from Richter, one of my favourite J.S. Bach performers on piano recordings has been Andràs Schiff on early 1980s Decca, and I do feel a connection between both players’ warmth of tone and sense of legato touch. There are other notable performers like Angela Hewitt on Hyperion, who have also received critical acclaim for lucid and distinctive playing which remains true to the spirit of Bach in this repertoire on a modern concert grand. All praise to those magnificent performers. This disc now rides on top of my choices for disc of the decade however, and my order for Fellner’s WTC I has already been placed.

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.