WORKS: Das Wohltemperierte Clavier, Book I, BWV 846, 847, 848, 849, 850, 851, 852, 853, 854, 855, 856, 857, 858, 859, 860, 861, 862, 863, 864, 865, 866, 867, 868, 869
PERFORMER: Sergey Schepkin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 024-113
The Russian-American pianist Sergey Schepkin is still relatively little-known to British audiences, though he has already made two critically acclaimed recordings of Bach’s keyboard works. The highly refined playing and manifest sensitivity to Baroque style of this latest release fulfil much of the promise of the earlier CDs. Schepkin dazzlingly captures the fleet virtuosity of the improvisatory Preludes; trips nimbly through the dance-influenced pieces, and imbues some of the darker ones – the E minor and F minor Preludes, among them – with haunting poetry. These are, above all, intimate, lonely readings without a trace of the extrovert gesturings which concert-hall performances necessitate, or the heavy-handedness which mars some other recordings of Bach on the piano. Perhaps in an attempt to mirror the clarity and delicacy of Baroque keyboard instruments, Schepkin makes liberal use of staccato – at times to fine effect, though it’s a technique that can sound mannered when over-exploited. His reading of the opening C major Prelude, indeed, verges on the self-consciously fey. It’s a pity, too, that some injudicious edits occasionally upset the rhythmic flow of Schepkin’s incisive playing, most disturbingly in the B minor Prelude.
Minor details apart, these are impressive accounts, and it is a credit to the young Russian that at best this collection can stand comparison with the classic recording by Edwin Fischer made in the Thirties. Kate Bolton