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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) The Well-Tempered Clavier- Book I
Pietro De Maria (piano)
rec. 2014, Auditorium del Suffragio, Lucca DECCA 4811304 [54:00 + 56:14]
I only discovered the Italian pianist Pietro De Maria when I recently
purchased a 13 CD box set of the Complete Chopin Piano Works (0289 481
11671), which he recorded for Italian Decca between 2006 and 2009. What
an impressive survey it is: he has a real feeling and instinct for this
composer. After some research via Google, I discovered that he had just
released his latest album – Book I of Bach’s Well Tempered
Pietro De Maria was born in Venice in 1967 and studied piano with Giorgio
Vianello and Gino Gorini. At the age of only 13 he won First Prize at
the Alfred Cortot International Piano Competition in Milan. After graduating
from the Conservatory of Venice he continued his studies with Maria
Tipo at the Conservatory of Geneva. Other prizes include the Critics'
Prize at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow (1990), the Dino Ciani
- Teatro La Scala in Milan (1990), the Géza Anda in Zurich (1994), and
the Mendelssohn Award in Hamburg (1997).
These performances of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Book
I are technically accomplished, assured and immaculately delivered.
De Maria obviously loves this music and invests it with tonal beauty
and a wealth of colour and shadings. Whilst the playing is rhythmically
alert, there’s flexibility, and the polyphonic lines are delineated
with clarity and precision. Nuance and dynamic gradients are subtly
applied. Judicious pedalling never allows harmonies to be blurred in
any way. There’s certainly no sense of routine or academic dryness;
he brings freshness, spontaneity and intelligence to the individual
Preludes and fugues, each emerging as though freshly composed.
Some of the highlights are worthy of mention. The simplicity of the
opening Prelude in C major has an innocence, beguiling charm and gentle
flowing quality. The C minor Fugue is joyful and ebullient with a sprightly
spring in its step. This infectious affability extends to the A flat
major Prelude, and the G major has an animated briskness, though not
quite pipping Richter to the post. One is carried along with the buoyant
flow of the F major Prelude and Fugue. On the reverse of the coin, the
D sharp minor Fugue conveys a sombre introspection, with the B flat
minor Fugue also darkly portrayed, yet with an underlying serenity.
The F minor Prelude exudes a meditative calm, allowing the listener
to luxuriate in its beauty and refinement.
The Decca engineers have captured the expertly voiced Steinway in superbly
engineered, sumptuous sound. The sympathetically warm and spacious acoustic
of the Auditorium del Suffragio, Lucca is ideally suited to highlight
the polyphonic strands of the music with pristine clarity and definition.
Masterly and informative annotations by Nicola Cattň shed background
and context around the evolution of the Bach opus, whilst Pietro De Maria shares his own thoughts and personal insights from a performer’s
perspective. Notes are in Italian with English translation.
This is top-drawer playing of the finest order and I’m now eagerly
looking forward to Book II.