Bach in a Lam­borgh­ini

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Last year, the young Ital­ian pi­anist Fed­erico Colli made waves with a disc of Scar­latti subti­tled “Vol­ume 1”, which might have seemed to prom­ise that he would be oc­cu­pied with that com­poser’s 500-plus sonatas for some time. In­stead, how­ever, he has di­verted his at­ten­tion to JS Bach, and grat­i­fy­ingly too, as even in such well-worn reper­toire, he has a lot to say.

Not for Colli the con­straints of per­form­ing on an in­stru­ment of Bach’s time – he has tried those for re­search, but com­pared it to driv­ing a Fiat 500 when you have a Lam­borgh­ini wait­ing in the garage. So he plays on a mod­ern Stein­way; and yet there is a per­cus­sive qual­ity to his touch that means that when he rat­tles win­ningly through the outer move­ments of the Ital­ian Con­certo, with en­tirely nat­u­ral flu­ency, you can al­most hear how they would sound on a harp­si­chord.

In softer move­ments, such as those at the heart of the Par­tita in D ma­jor, BWV 828, that dis­tinct­ness melts into play­ing of soft-edged in­ward­ness, soulsearch­ing yet never los­ing its poise. For all the vi­tal­ity of his faster play­ing, and the sub­tle spring and swing he puts into the rhythm of each of the Par­tita’s seven dances, it’s per­haps these qui­eter mo­ments that of­fer the disc’s most mem­o­rable high­lights.

Fi­nally, there is Bach’s D mi­nor Cha­conne – a solo vi­o­lin work ex­panded by Bu­soni into a colos­sus of the pi­ano reper­toire. Colli’s per­for­mance is char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally thought­ful and con­sid­ered, yet has a self-aware sense of the epic about it – which is not sur­pris­ing when you read the liner note, in which he ex­plains that he has come to see the work as noth­ing less than a three-part al­le­gory of the crucifixion, res­ur­rec­tion and last judg­ment. Whether or not you buy into that in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Bach’s mo­tives for writ­ing this ex­tra­or­di­nary work, it’s a mon­u­men­tally well-paced per­for­mance that grips from each mo­ment to the next.

For all the vi­tal­ity of his faster play­ing, it’s the qui­eter mo­ments that are high­lights

Also out this week

An in­trigu­ing disc of Bri­tish mu­sic comes from cel­list

Na­talie Clein and pi­anist Chris­tian Ihle Had­land . The dis­cov­ery is the Vi­ola Sonata by the pioneering Re­becca Clarke, com­posed 100 years ago, which they per­form in the com­poser’s own cello ar­range­ment, cap­tur­ing its rest­less, rhap­sodic sweep. Clarke’s work is only be­gin­ning to be prop­erly eval­u­ated, and it stands up here to what fol­lows it: the Cello Sonata plus a few minia­tures by Frank Bridge, search­ingly played, and six brief folk-song stud­ies by Vaughan Wil­liams. Er­ica Jeal

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