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Bach – The Art of Life (Daniil Trifonov)

Daniil Trifonov (piano) (DG)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Bach – The Art of Life
Keyboard Works by CPE Bach, JC Bach, JCF Bach, JS Bach, WF Bach, Brahms and Stölzel
Daniil Trifonov (piano)
DG 483 8530   125:43 mins (2 discs)


We don’t normally associate Daniil Trifonov with Bach, so this recording is a revelation, not only of his particular pianistic approach but also of the musical world as it continued through Bach’s sons.

Trifonov himself describes Bach’s canons as ‘a masterful illustration of quantum entanglement’, the mirror fugues as ‘a description of matter-anti-matter theory’ and the diminished fugues ‘an analogy of gravitational time-bending’. Bach’s entire output, he says, is ‘a sonic image of God’s natural laws’. Well, all that’s as maybe. But such ratiocinations are not the reason why this double album is such a delight. Trifonov shapes his programme like a recital, starting with a series of pieces which few people will know. Beginning with a light-hearted and intricate sonata by Johann Christian Bach, he moves on via a Polonaise by Wilhelm Friedemann (sounding to modern ears like a sarabande) to a typically jagged and joke-filled Rondo by Carl Philipp Emanuel, before settling into a charming set of variations by Johann Christoph Friedrich on the theme of ‘Ah, vous dirai-je, maman?’ Then he gives us 12 seldom-performed pieces from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena, followed by an outburst of splendour in the Bach-Brahms Chaconne.

Many pianists radiate effort in their attempts to make intellectual sense of The Art of Fugue: Trifonov’s approach seems effortless, at once incisive and tender, purveying pure pleasure from start to finish. Myra Hess provides the envoi. Whether in pianissimo détaché or with majestic fullness, Trifonov’s touch is perfectly judged throughout.


Michael Church