I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Bach - Art of Fugue - Christian Rieger

#alttext# This 2008 recording, done in the famous Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal in Köln, features harpsichordist Christian Rieger performing in a David Sutherland copy of a Zell instrument from 1728. German. Ripe. Legendary recording location (it seemed to be a favorite of Goebel and Company, where they recorded their Bach Brandenburgs in 1986). Having just reviewed a version that used a small string ensemble with winds, this version might appear to be the more authentic of the two. I've avoided all harpsichord versions in the past, considering that I've read the work is impossible to play by a solo player, and also because I really like the color and separation of different instruments. That said, Rieger does an outstanding job, adopting mostly brisk tempi. The recorded sound is excellent, very live but not too heavy on reverb. The problem, for the listener without a score, is following all the lines separately. I will say that having learned this piece well through different recordings, some of which that do use separate "voices" in the reading, helped immensely in keeping the voices more distinct. Rieger at times introduces an ornament here and there that always seems entirely appropriate. He manages good momentum, despite what his fingers are being asked to do. Some of the work sounds effortless from our perspective, but we full-well know playing 4-part fugues isn't necessarily the easiest undertaking. The favorite contrapunctus for me, #9, is done here with fleeting energy. His tempo doesn't wane, and when three, then four voices enter, wow! The notes! The drive! The ornaments on top! Good times. Rieger comes across as a confident, technically-capable player that gives us a clean, rich account of Bach's greatest work. He's not so technically showy that he's "showing off," but he's communicates a confidence that's refreshing. What's missing is the romantic aspect that creeps into many renditions on piano. While I think the AoF can sound great on the modern piano, I not only like the sound of this one, but prefer the interpretation. By the time we get to the end, Rieger leaves us almost speechless, letting the music speak for itself, with those trailing notes just lingering in dead air. It's so much better than the version that slows down from der Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin. Great sound, very strong performance. Recommended.

Au temps de Louis XV

Bach Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord