With a glut of satisfying recordings of J.S. Bach’s keyboard concertos
floating around, any new contender to enter the fray needs to make its mark.
This new release certainly asserts its presence in a positive way. The
German pianist Yorck Kronenberg, a name new to me, fulfils the dual role of
soloist and director of the Zürich Chamber Orchestra, in performances
guaranteed to make you sit up and take notice.
With these compositions, Bach set the ball rolling for a novel genre – the
piano concerto, where the soloist would be pitched against the orchestra, in
a work of several movements. The form was not as established and set in
stone as it would later become, but more free and loosely-structured.
Bach completed seven concertos for solo keyboard and strings, all of which
are included here. As an ardent recycler, BWV 1054 and 1058 will be
recognizable from their previous incarnations as the Violin Concertos in E
major and A minor respectively. BWV 1057 is an arrangement of the Fourth
Brandenburg Concerto in which the composer left the recorder parts as they
were but added a solo harpsichord, an amalgam of the violin and continuo
parts. Kronenberg opts for the harpsichord in preference to the piano for
this concerto, justifying its use: "there is no suitable counterpart
for the recorder which would have blended well with the modern grand. Thus,
performing on a historical instrument made the most sense."
The pianist favours brisk tempi, which for me work very well. Actually,
comparing the timings of the outer movements of the First Concerto BWV
with some other recordings in my collection, there was not that big a
though somehow they feel more energetic and vigorously paced.
One thing is certain: Kronenberg commands a formidable technique. Clarity
and crisp articulation are a hallmark of these readings. The harpsichord in
BWV 1057 brings to the work extra crispness and bite, and provides a
pleasing contrast. The slow movements are imbued with an alluring lyricism.
The pianist’s sensitive and exquisite phrasing and line in the Largo of BWV
1056 recalled the eloquence, spontaneity and freshness of Edwin Fischer’s
A general overview convinces me that these are persuasive accounts, and
there is plenty to enjoy. Kronenberg has an intelligent and informed
approach and his vision is perfectly realized and achieved.
These readings are a breath of fresh air: exciting, dynamic and
imaginative, brushing away the cobwebs.
Nicely presented in a gatefold, with attached booklet, the annotations
contain an interesting interview with the pianist, where he discusses his
approach to Bach. The quality of sound is exemplary, with polished and
focused playing from the Zürich players. Balance between keyboard and
orchestra is ideal. These free-spirited accounts set the bar high, and will
sit proudly on my CD shelves.