Bach To The Future
In his booklet note (insistently over-the-top, also interesting, and fun) Ashley Wass explains how his choice here of composers with names beginning with B relates to his liking for their ‘sense of counterpoint such that renders every note critical…all the music on this disc, despite covering several centuries, can be related, either directly or indirectly, through style, form or structure, to Bach.’ The idea works well, with opening, central and closing takes on Bach by Kurtág and Busoni punctuating larger statements by Berg, Beethoven and Barber.
Wass says he has been playing much of this music for many years, and his experience shows. Samuel Barber’s rangy, furiously difficult four-movement Sonata can often sound far too like Prokofiev for its own good. Here, on the contrary, the work that Wass describes as his ‘party piece’ has become so assimilated into his own DNA that the result powerfully conveys the music’s individuality – as lean, taut and vivid as the virtuosity of the playing itself. The switchback range of moods in Beethoven’s Six Bagatelles Op. 126 is caught without any exaggeration of the composer’s compulsive streak: in the serene Andante No. 3 the long right-hand trill, beautifully sustained by Wass, becomes a work of art in its own right. At the opposite extreme to Alban Berg’s clangorous one-movement Sonata are the dreamy harmonic mysteries of Busoni’s Fantasia nach JS Bach BV 253, memorably explored here. And for Kurtág’s pair of four-hand Bach arrangements, Wass is joined by his fellow-pianist Ron Abramski.