Sample Clips (30 seconds)
Fresh from my encounter with Craig Sheppards Book One of the Well Tempered Clavier comes this disc of the Fifteen Two-Part Inventions BWV 772-786 and Fifteen Three-Part Sinfonias BWV 787-801. Next on my listening list is Sheppards Partitas.
As is now usual Sheppard is recorded in the Meany Theatre in Seattle. Each Invention is paired with a Sinfonia that shares the same key. The result is a disc of wonderful insights into the appropriateness of things. Aeration of texture is one of the things that so distinguishes his playing. Its not over-refinement or crystalline coolness, rather its the lyricism, rhythmic precision and clarity that gives such life and a sense of motion to the music making. And the corollary is that each Sinfonia and Invention bears appropriate weight; weight relative to its musical significance.
So, time for some examples of Sheppards perception, his imaginative and intellectual qualities. Take the delving independence of the left hand voicings in the Sinfonia in C major the dancing rhythms and the sense of colour evoked. The realisation that Sheppard is seeking an appropriate colour and weight is immediately apparent but reinforced, early, in the Sinfonia in C minor where in addition to these qualities we feel him measuring the music for its expressive qualities without any excessive lingering. Note too the absolute precision of articulation in the Sinfonia in D minor.
The Sinfonia in E minor has a powerful sense of refinement and elegance in motion. The Invention in F major shows that Sheppards tone never hardens toward brittleness and that he maintains a natural sounding tempo and pliant unostentatious phrasing entirely at the service of the music; lit from within, not from without. He is sensitive to dynamic variations of course but never as self-conscious devices; try the Invention in F minor where the sheer communicative warmth of the playing is allied to a sense of reflective, lyrical delicacy. But when the music demands it Sheppard is alive to its more troubling aspects. The Sinfonia in F minor is, in his hands, starkly introspective and is pointed with austere direction and a definable sense of angularity. The result is deeply impressive.
Sheppard has written his own notes, once more, and again they reflect the executants ceaseless seeking. The recording is, as with this series in general, quite close but attractively so. Sheppards Bach recordings continue to impress time after time.
Craig Sheppard Plays Bach's Inventions & Sinfonias
Arthur S. Leonard
...I have rarely heard Bach played with
such dramatic sureness and sense of meaning by a keyboard artist. This is one of
the most interesting and moving piano recordings I've heard in a long time. The
audience is suitably quiet, the sound quality is fine, and the performance just
blew me away. I can't recommend this one highly enough...