The Art of Fugue
Filippo Gorini (piano)
Alpha Classics ALPHA 755 95:27 mins (2 discs)
There are many fine recordings of Bach’s The Art of Fugue, including Gustav Leonhardt on the harpsichord, Marie-Claire Alain on the organ, Quartetto Italiano, and Rinaldo Alessandrini with his Concerto Italiano. My favourite versions on piano are those by Tatyana Nikolayeva, Angela Hewitt and Glenn Gould. And like the riddle of the Sphinx, the work will forever retain the capacity to tantalise: some musicians believe it was not intended to be performed at all, but simply to be studied.
So here’s another fine recording. Filippo Gorini’s has lovely poise throughout, sometimes as though with bated breath, other times with driving propulsion, and occasionally exploding with pure joie de vivre. He never pushes the pace, letting Bach’s complex patterns unfold with grave deliberation, while always keeping the multiple voices distinct.
And he, too, presents the work as a riddle: in place of musicological liner notes he offers us sonnets of his own devising interspersed with home-made haikus. And if the literary tone of his poetry recalls that of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, that is intentional: in Gorini’s view the two works inhabit the same mystical world. Moreover, this recording is only phase one of a larger project designed to reflect the work’s relevance to our contemporary culture: drawing on Gorini’s interviews with luminaries including Alfred Brendel and Mitsuko Uchida, architect Frank Gehry and mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, podcasts will exponentially expand the argument.