Bach on a Steinway

reviewed by Kristine Morris

J.S. Bach Played in a 17th Century Style

Jeffrey Biegel, Pianist

Bach on a SteinwayThis past summer, pianist Jeffrey Biegel performed a set of Johann Sebastian Bach’s (1685 – 1750) keyboard works on a glorious Steinway at the acoustically ideal Performing Arts Center in Purchase, New York. Multi-Grammy-winning producer Steven Epstein recorded the sessions with results that are extraordinary in their clarity and richness of sound. Now, the legendary sound of a 1980 hand-crafted Steinway Model D piano is coupled with Beigel’s sensitive, articulate playing to bring selected Bach works to life in this first release on Steinway & Sons’ welcome new recording label. The new series will highlight virtuoso pianists on exceptionally beautiful instruments.

The works included on this CD are Bach’s Toccata in D-minor, BWV 913; the Prelude and Fugue No. 5 in D-major from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, BWV 850; the Partita for Keyboard, No. 2 in C-minor, BWV 826; the Toccata in E-minor, BWV 914; the Prelude and Fugue No. 13 in F-sharp major from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, BWV 858, and the French Suite No. 5 in G-major, BWV 816.

Biegel says that he selected the 1980 Steinway D for its “warmth and wide dynamic range but also the brightness and bite I was after for Bach.” It was a felicitous choice — the sound is luscious and rich in all ranges, with clear edges and enough brightness overall to enhance Beigel’s incisive interpretations and Baroque-style ornamentation. Biegel says that while one cannot replicate — or even imitate — the sound of an instrument of Bach’s day on a modern piano, any more than one would play Chopin on a harpsichord and try to make it sound like a piano, he believes that Bach “would have enjoyed the Steinway because it agrees with his compositional style. It complements the polyphonic vocal lines and the tremendous range of emotion in his music.”

Jeffrey Biegel is on the piano faculty at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has made many recordings, including the complete Mozart Piano Sonatas for E1 Entertainment, Leroy Anderson’s Concerto in C with conductor Leonard Slatkin, and Ellen Taa e Zwilich’s Millennium Fantasy for Naxos, as well as having premiered many other contemporary works with major United States orchestras.


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