Originally recorded for the small Music Masters label in the early '90s, this set of Bach's keyboard concertos was among a series of choice Music Masters items reissued by Nimbus late in the first decade of the 21st century. The Russians have never been known for Bach, but this is a solid traversal that can be recommended to anyone wanting to hear these concertos on a piano accompanied by modern instruments. Despite these forces, there is a good deal of influence from the British historical-instrument movement apparent here; the crisp string playing avoids any hint of Romantic sheen, and Feltsman is very subtle in his introduction of purely pianistic elements. The long notes in the slow movements tend to be just a bit more extended than would be possible on a harpsichord, and Feltsman thus creates a smooth, pearly texture that's quite lyrical. In several of the finales he pushes the tempo to high speeds, creating an entirely different effect on a piano that the music would have on a harpsichord.
This disc continues Thomas Demenga's project of juxtaposing Bach cello suites with contemporary compositions—by Elliott Carter (12/90), Heinz Holliger, and now Sandor Veress, whose music we can hear growing out of, and away from, its neo-classical roots in Bach's polyphony.
The circumstances that moved Bach to relinquish his position as Kapellmeister in the placid town of Cothen in 1723 and to assume the succession of Johann Kuhnau as Cantor of St. Thomas's in Leipzig are, like so many factors in his biography, not easy to explain. Was it out of concern that, as a court musician, he would be obliged to neglect one of his most outstanding gifts as a virtuosic organist? was it because of his princely employer's gradual loss of interest in music in general and in his small, but exquisite court orchestra in particular? Or was it the gruelling religious conflict, a never ending source of agitation at the residence, where the conversion to Calvinism was a rather half-hearted affair and which posed a growing threat to the freedom of Bach's artistic activities? Question upon question. The fact that Bach's professional dreams were by no means to be fulfilled as Cantor in Leipzig, either, is amply documented: in an endless epistolary feud about what seem to be no more than ludicrously trivial vexations, but which none the less aggravated the burden of the virtually superhuman catalogue of his duties, he was constantly at loggerheads with his superiors.