JS Bach: Improvisations on themes by JS Bach

COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Bach and Beyond
WORKS: Improvisations on themes by JS Bach
PERFORMER: Gabriela Montero (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: EMI 351 4452
If you have ever wondered how Bach dressed up as Chopin, Debussy, Satie, Poulenc, Albéniz or Ravel might have sounded, this disc is certainly for you. Gabriela Montero has managed to put together a sequence of highly ingenious improvisations that take us on a rather unexpected journey. I would have never have thought that, with the aid of a bel canto right-hand melody, the first Prelude of the 48 could be so easily transformed into a Chopin Nocturne, and that there might even be a tangible connection between the whole-tone cascades from Debussy’s ‘Voiles’ and the Aria from the Goldberg Variations. Even less expected is the Latin-American razzmatazz of a two-part Invention in D minor and the Gymnopédie-like spin on ‘Sheep may safely graze’.

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A close protégée of Martha Argerich, Montero is a first-rate pianist with obvious charisma, wit and imagination. At the same time, there’s something rather studied about the whole enterprise which seems strangely at odds with the feeling that an improvisation should convey spontaneity. Still, this release will delight many listeners. Erik Levi