- Bach: No. 1 in C major / Chopin: No. 1 in C major 4:14
- Chopin: No. 20 in C minor / Bach: No. 2 in C minor 3:08
- Bach: No. 9 in E major / Chopin: No. 9 in E major 3:17
- Chopin: No. 8 in F # minor / Bach: No. 14 in F # minor 2:45
- Bach: No. 19 in A major / Chopin: No. 7 in A major 2:13
- Chopin: No. 2 in A minor / Bach: No. 20 in A minor 2:59
- Bach: No. 21 in B flat major / Chopin: No. 21 in B flat major 3:28
- Chopin: No. 4 in E minor / Bach: No. 10 in E minor 4:50
- Bach: No. 13 in F # major / Chopin: No. 13 in F # major 6:04
- Chopin: No. 22 in G minor / Bach: No. 16 in G minor 3:11
- Bach: No. 17 in A flat major / Chopin: No. 17 in A flat major 4:36
- Bach: No. 12 in F minor / Chopin: No. 18 in F minor 3:17
- Bach: No. 7 in E flat major / Chopin: No. l9 in E flat major 6:44
- Chopin: No. 14 in E flat minor / Bach: No. 8 in E flat minor 5:24
- Bach: No. 3 in C # major / Chopin: No. 15 in D flat major 7:29
- Chopin: No.10 in C # minor / Bach: No. 4 in C # minor 3:34
- Bach: No. 5 in D major / Chopin: No. 5 in D major 1:35
- Chopin: No. 12 in G # minor / Bach: No. 18 in G # minor 2:48
- Bach: No. 15 in G major / Chopin: No. 3 in G major 1:45
- Chopin: No. 16 in B flat minor / Bach: No. 22 in B flat minor 4:03
- Bach: No. 23 in B major / Chopin: No. 10 in B major 2:00
- Chopin: No. 6 in B minor / Bach: No. 24 in B minor 4:54
- Bach: No. 11 in F major / Chopin: No. 23 in F major 2:11
- Bach: No. 6 in D minor / Chopin: No. 24 in D minor 4:20
João Carlos Martins w. Arthur
Bach/Chopin - The Preludes (2-CD set)
Piano & Keyboard
This two-CD set, taped live at the 92nd Street Y in New York, is what rock musicians might call a concept album. The idea is to present and record a recital juxtaposing the preludes from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I of J.S. Bach with the preludes of Chopin. The performers of this event are two contemporaneous Brazilian pianists of international repute, João Carlos Martins and Arthur Moreira-Lima and, as claimed on the CD box, the event is “historic.”
The connections between Bach and Chopin have been well-documented and are enumerated extensively, and sometimes tendentiously, in the liner notes by Eric Salzman, a long-time fan of Martins. These performances highlight connections not always evident when the preludes of Bach and Chopin are heard separately. First, there is a mutual emphasis on what Bach called the cantabile style of composition, with its focus on beautiful, exquisitely crafted melodies. Then there are the fascinating interrelationships between preludes in identical keys–links of length, affect, tempo rubato, improvisation, and ornamental figuration, all aspects of the High Baroque manner shared by Chopin. Indeed, the almost encyclopedic range of style and form in the preludes of both composers becomes extremely vivid when they are heard back-to-back, as they are presented here.
Martins and Moreira-Lima, who produced this recording themselves, made some unusual choices in the key sequence in which the preludes are performed. Instead of presenting them in chromatic order, as did Bach, or proceed through the circle of fifths, loke Chopin, they chose an ordering based on musical and poetic effect. Both composer’s preludes in E major, for example, present differing versions of the 18th century pastorale. The Brazilians follow their performances of these with the two preludes in F minor, which could not be more dissimilar to the works that precede them or to each other. This alternation of feeling and tone is typical of the whole project, and is one of its chief features of interest.
I must confess that I, too, am a long time fan of Martins’ Bach, which has given rise to controversy in other quarters. It is playing that freezes the blood of traditionalists, performed on an immense scale, full of crescendo from ppp to ff and equally grand contrasts of tempo and articulation. Martins apparently has little interest in the niceties of 18th-century style as it is currently understood. So many moments, though, proclaim the work of a great artist: the beautifully judged rubato and warm tone of the Prelude in C Major, the simplicity and gentleness of his presentation of the Prelude in E minor, the incisive passage work of the D Major. I love all of it, although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a first listening choice for young students.
I find Moreira-Lima’s Chopin more problematic. It is a modernist approach to these works, clipped, focused and straightforward, inspiring dutiful respect rather than love.
The poetic quality that I seem to remember from live recitals is here replaced with a feeling of brusqueness, expressed by a limited dynamic range and lack of tonal variety.
So it is the pieces themselves and the concept of their arrangement that makes this disc unique. That, and Martins’ Bach playing, which is worth hearing however it is presented.
–Scott McBride Smith, Piano & Keyboard
In this concert recording from the 92nd Street Y in New York City, the iconoclastic Bach specialist João Carlos Martins performs the preludes from Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier while his countryman Arthur Moreira-Lima plays Chopin’s Op. 28 preludes. Instead of one set following the other, they are interlaced, with the preludes arranged according to their common keys. The juxtapositions are sometimes revealing – showing, for example, the remarkable similarity in the busy passagework of each composer’s D Major prelude. The program ends with the D Minor preludes, in which Chopin’s seems to pick up where Bach’s leaves off.
Call it a gimmick if you will, but the performances are genuine edge-of-the-seat experiences. Martins sometimes storms the keyboard so lustily in his part that you wish he’s quit trying to turn Bach into Godzilla and just play some Liszt, but there are lots of “ah-hah” moments, too, when he delivers the kind of insight flourish associated with the young Glenn Gould. Even better are the Chopin preludes of Moreira-Lima, who studied in Moscow and epitomizes big-personality, chance-taking, rhythmically free music making. Chopin’s works can seem somewhat narrow alongside the wondrous contrapuntal complexity of Bach’s, but not with Moreira-Lima’s epic-style playing. No living Chopin pianist is more fascinating. Labor Records is missing a big opportunity by not extracting a single Chopin CD from this set.
–David Patrick Stearns, Stereo Review
On The Air Magazine
Brazilian pianists João Carlos Martins and Arthur Moreira-Lima join forces for a duo recital in which they never play together. Instead, they alternate between Preludes of J.S. Bach and Frederic Chopin, playing one or two from each composer, mixing up the order between them, and jumping from Bach to Chopin so quickly it eventually becomes an effort to distinguish the two composers. Pairing the Preludes by key signature smoothes the transitions and illustrates any rhythmic, harmonic and melodic connections the two sets of Preludes may share. It’s a novel, exciting idea, and succeeds in breaking down the mental categories of “Baroque” and “Romantic.” Martins, who is recording the complete keyboard music of Bach, plays all the Well-Tempered Clavier excerpts, and Moreira-Lima plays the Chopin. Martins attacks the Bach with an almost Lisztian aggressiveness, and it works wonderfully. Moreira-Lima plays the Chopin with a physicality to match; I sometimes wished he would have incorporated more subtlety into
his interpretations. It’s a fast ride on two giant music machines guaranteed to change the way you hear Bach and Chopin.
–On The Air Magazine
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