Ramin Bahrami / Riccardo Chailly

Bach: 5 Klavierkonzerte

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Performed on piano in a mainstream performance style, the five keyboard concertos of J.S. Bach are given a robust treatment in this 2011 Decca release. Pianist Ramin Bahrami and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, led by Riccardo Chailly, make no concessions to period performance practice or historically informed scholarship, so there's no attempt to render the music in Baroque style. To early music connoisseurs, this disc may be dismissed out of hand for that reason, but listeners who are open to hearing Bach's concertos in modern instrumentation, with a minimum of ornamentation and a fairly straightforward execution, will be more favorably inclined to accept Bahrami's playing. This Iranian pianist specializes in Bach's keyboard music, and his interpretations stem from his intimate involvement with Bach's music from his teens. As a mature performer who plays with energy and assertiveness, Bahrami makes the concertos feel rather urgent in their fast outer movements and alert, if not also restless, in the slow middle movements, so an intense emotional feeling seems to underlie these performances. Yet unlike some modern recordings, where the concertos can sound like Romantic renditions with big expressions and thick, homogenized orchestral accompaniment, Bahrami and Chailly keep textures light and transparent, so something closer to a Classical sound is realized. Recorded live in 2009, the sound is clear and focused, with a bright keyboard tone and vibrant strings, though the orchestra seems mixed at a lower level than the piano.

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