8 Preludes and Fugues: Well Tempered Clavier, Book 2

Mazurka in A Minor, Opus 59
Mazurka in A-flat Major, Opus 59
Mazurka in F Sharp Minor, Opus 59


Polonaise in A-flat Major, Opus 53

Partita No.1 in B-flat Major

By Lawrence Budmen

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) were two of music's greatest innovators in keyboard composition. While they lived in vastly different eras, Bach and Chopin were both influenced by the dance music of their time. Bach turned 18th century court dances into high art. For Chopin the mazurka and polonaise were a means to speak a musical language deeply rooted in Polish nationalism. Both composers wrote highly complex, contrapuntal music that expanded the range of the keyboard instrument. Bach and Chopin made intricate use of the left hand. While many composers wrote a left hand part that merely filled in a rhythmic line, their left hand writing is more complex. It is hard to view the history of keyboard composition without the influence of these two giants.

Bach's two books of the "Well Tempered Clavier" each present 24 Preludes and Fugues. There is a tremendous variety of musical expression in these scores. While Bach was indeed a Baroque composer, the deep emotion and range of tonal color in these scores look forward to a new Romantic era. The formal rigor, density, and complexity of this music are awesome. To make each strand of Bach's fugal writing clear within the formal structure is a supreme challenge for the instrumentalist. Bach expanded the technical dimensions of the keyboard in these and many other works for keyboard instruments. The "English Suite No.6 in D Minor" consists of six court dances preceded by a prelude. Here, these formal court dances take on a new meaning. Bach brings a rhythmic spine and a creative inspiration to these dances that transforms them. Here is music that is not for the ballroom or the court, but for the concert hall.

While Bach composed most of his keyboard works for the harpsichord, there is a long tradition of performing them on the modern piano. Such vastly different artists as Glenn Gould, Rosalyn Tureck, and Murray Perahia have brought new artistic dimensions to the performance of these scores on modern concert grands. Piotr Anderszewski is one of today's most highly individual and expressive artists. His recording of Beethoven's "Diabelli Variations" presented that complex work in a new, original light. His Bach promises to be a true musical event!

Chopin was a hero of the 19th century Parisian musical salon. Like Bach in an earlier century, he turned the elegant music of small social gatherings into the new "art music" of the concert platform. While the A-flat Polonaise remains Chopin's most popular work, his ballades are less frequently performed. They require an enormous technical and dramatic range from the performing artist. This is 19th century romantic music - stormy, emotional, and intense. In the mazurkas, Chopin transcends the limitation of a national dance. Here are pianistic showpieces filled with myriad variations of rhythmic propulsion and tonal coloring. After Bach and Chopin, keyboard music would never be the same. Here then is the music of two giants played by one of today's great interpretive artists.

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All material copyright protected - Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, Florida USA

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