Bach: Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052; Keyboard Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056; Keyboard Partita in B flat, BWV 825; plus jazz arrangements of above works

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Bel Air Music
WORKS: Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052; Keyboard Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056; Keyboard Partita in B flat, BWV 825; plus jazz arrangements of above works
PERFORMER: Valeri Grohovski (piano), Hamilton Price (bass), Gerry Gibbs (drums); Russian PO/Michael Guttman
CATALOGUE NO: BAM 2034
By offering Bach’s D minor and F minor Concertos, plus the B flat Partita, on one disc and jazz trio arrangements of these works on a another, pianist Valeri Grohovski aims to prove how well he can switch from classical to jazz. As it happens, his ‘straight’ Bach turns out to be quite jazzy in its toe-tapping rhythmic propulsion, hard-nosed drive and occasional casualness of accent, notably in the outer movements of the D minor Concerto and the Partita’s Allemande, Courante and Gigue. By contrast, the slow movements of both concertos sound reverential and inhibited compared to Murray Perahia’s vocally oriented finesse (the raw-toned, rigid phrasing of the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra strings doesn’t help matters). While Grohovski doesn’t match the contrapuntal clarity András Schiff and Angela Hewitt bring to the Partita (his Sarabande limps and drags), his spiky bass lines and imaginative voicings throughout the repeats beg your attention. In the main, Grohovski’s jazz treatments of these works keep Bach’s texts intact, except for obvious rhythmic alterations, and bebop rather than Baroque ornaments. His gingerly intoned left-hand chord voicings derive from jazz, yet rarely stray from Bach’s harmonic game plan. Grohovski’s sense of swing and nimble interaction with his excellent rhythm section reveal a talent for jazz feeling, but not necessarily improvisation. The pianist could have given himself room to stretch out and let his imagination take flight, as the late John Lewis did with Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, or in the line of Uri Caine’s clever Goldberg Variations deconstruction. Instead, Grohovski essentially remakes Jacques Loussier’s Play Bach. Jed Distler

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