Abdel Rahman El Bacha

J.S. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier I

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Pianist Abdel Rahman El Bacha has a strong following in his native Lebanon, his adopted France, and apparently in Japan, where he has made several recordings for the audiophile-oriented Octavia label. His artistry relies on subtle layerings and graceful turns of direction rather than on sheer power, and the Super Audio medium definitely showcases him at his best. This is true even in Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, which is not usually given wide dynamic range. El Bacha has specialized in Romantic repertoire, and his Bach is definitely of the old school, with liberal use of the pedals, a range of pianistic articulation, and swelling climaxes in the music. If you enjoy these interpretations, you'll find an original one here, with the smooth quality Japanese audiences seem to favor. The set is diverse and seems to cover a lot of territory. In many of the prelude-fugue pairs, he contrasts an atmospheric, heavily pedaled prelude with a crisp and generally straightforward fugue, building slowly and broadening out only at the end. In the minor-key fugues, however, he tends to add more mood and pianism. Sample the E flat minor fugue, track 16, for the effect. This is a contrast that wouldn't have been available on Bach's instruments, and it may not be to everyone's liking, but the cumulative level of detail in El Bacha's readings is likely to grow on you as you make your way through the set, and he has certainly managed to make a fresh statement in some of history's most-played keyboard music. The engineering will be a sufficient attraction in itself for some buyers; the location is specified as Chichibu Muse Park in Saitama, but the recording does not sound as though it was made outdoors.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 846-869
1 1:52
2 2:13
3 1:25
4 1:22
5 1:17
6 2:14
7 3:04
8 3:54
9 1:13
10 1:50
11 1:18
12 2:33
13 3:53
14 1:47
15 3:45
16 6:08
17 1:43
18 1:21
19 2:43
20 1:15
21 0:58
22 1:12
23 2:06
24 3:31

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 846-869
1 1:12
2 1:53
3 1:05
4 3:22
5 0:49
6 2:36
7 2:00
8 1:59
9 1:19
10 2:12
11 1:33
12 2:54
13 1:24
14 3:14
15 1:18
16 4:02
17 1:18
18 1:34
19 2:32
20 3:20
21 1:16
22 2:04
23 4:22
24 7:07
blue highlight denotes track pick