Johann Sebastian Bach: Preludes, Fantasias and Minuets

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  1. Präludium, Fuge und Allegro BWV 998: Präludium Sandro Ivo Bartoli 2:49
  2. 6 Kleine Präludien: Präludium c-moll BWV 934 Sandro Ivo Bartoli 2:26
  3. Präludium - Fantasie c-moll BWV 921 Sandro Ivo Bartoli 4:09
  4. 12 Kleine Präludien: Präludium C-Dur BWV 904 Sandro Ivo Bartoli 1:25

Fidelity Magazin | Roland Schmenner – April 2018
“A stroke of genius – seldom did I find a classical music release so addictive.”

MusicVoice | Andrea Bedett – April 2018
“Bartoli has endeavoured to explore these works in such profundity, giving a reading just as in a continuous unravelling and reaching the bare heart of each of them, bringing them back to a rank in which the dimensional aspect has nothing to do with the spatial minuteness of their interpretative bulk. And, at the end, we perceive a sense of liberation when he tackles the Chromatische Fantasie: With finally reaching a sense of horizontality, after so much verticality, is experiencing vertigo. Like in the final verse of Dante’s Inferno: “and thence we came forth to see again the stars”.”

Planet Hugill | Robert Hugill – February 2018
“Bartoli’s pianism does full justice to the remarkable range of imagination in these works.”

textura | Ron Schepper – November 2017
“Bartoli demonstrates an exemplary command of the material throughout, with his sensitive attunement to matters of tempo, touch, and dynamics and lyrical interpretations revealing a deep connection to the composer and grasp of his soundworld.”

Pizzicato | Alain Steffen – November 2017
“…starting with the very first note, I was mesmerised! Even the Bach connoisseur and lover will be able to discover something new in Bartoli’s interpretations.”

MusicWeb-International | Dominy Clements – November 2017
“With excellent recorded sound and a superbly conceived programme this has been one of my favourite Bach piano releases of 2017.”

iClassical | October 2017
“Not since I first encountered Glenn Gould playing Bach have I been so excited by a new Bach piano release!”

Opus Klassiek | Aart van der Wal – September 2017
“Bartoli’s Bach represents the highest form of narrative art. His high ambitions fit his great imagination and his playing feels without boundaries due to the inherent ‘ad finitum’ quality it radiates – regardless of whether it is the simple ‘Menuet BWV 842’ or the great ‘Fantasia BWV 922’. The momentum is consistent, the presentation overwhelming, the persuasive force impressive. Bartoli’s playing is just incredibly beautiful, to be honest. The recording by Dirk Fischer is one of the best of its kind.”

Musique Classique & Co. | Thierry Vagne – September 2017
“Apart from Gould and Kempff, both in their well-typed genres, I do not remember a Bach so addictive. Never an exaggeration of rhythm or dynamics or idiosyncrasy, just a constantly renewing musical flow. The listener experiences an immediate empathy for these lines, drawn so harmoniously and with such control of weight and colour on a piano of tremendous quality, and all this ideally recorded.”

Making records can be a tiresome affair – or it can be really simple. “I called Sandro early last year to ask him what he wanted to record as a follow-up to our Liszt recording”, Solaire’s director Dirk Fischer remembers, “And without flinching for a single second, he said: Bach.” This almost ‘mainstream’-choice was not what Fischer had expected from the unconventional Italian pianist. And yet, he was more than happy to see where it would lead them. And sure enough, the original idea quickly transformed into a unique proposition: To juxtapose some of Bach’s least known pieces – little preludes and minuets, many of which just barely scrape the one-minute mark – with two of his most monumental works for the keyboard: The Prelude, Fuge and Allegro and the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue.

“The reason for choosing these small pieces is simply that ever since I learned them as a little child, I’ve been in love with them“, Sandro Ivo Bartoli explains, “And from time to time, I played them for my own pleasure. I usually play very complex repertoire, lots of notes all the time. Going back to these little pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach gives me a chance to clear my head.” These works may seem unassuming, but his interpretative demand was as ambitious as ever: “If I was going to record Bach, I at least wanted to make sure that I did not sound like anybody else. I made a conscious effort of not imitating someone. Glenn Gould in particular, because he’s inimitable.”

There is a suspenseful tension in Bartoli’s take on the Little Preludes. To him, these pieces rank as among the composer’s most precious gifts, while he also believes that they were written, as he puts it, ‘at the drop of a hat’: “He certainly didn’t put much effort into them. I think Bach would have been quite nonchalant about these pieces. In fact, of the 18 preludes I recorded, only the six which are in the Wilhelm Friedemann book are in an order prescribed by him. The others can be found here and there. I don’t think they meant very much to him.” He reflects for a second, then laughs: “But they mean a lot to me.”

The contrast with the more lengthy selections on the album could hardly be more radical. Bartoli describes the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue as “almost an isolated example of a wandering kind of writing” and “possibly a written down improvisation … by a genius”. He learned to love it early in his life, having heard it for the first time on an organ in Pisa as a 15-year old. For the recording sessions, as a personal talisman, he took with him the score he had bought in Italy as a little child, the price still printed on it in Lire. As so many choices on this album – including using a beer crate for a chair – the idea was born as spontaneously as the music itself. Which befits the spirit of a CD which, the complexity and challenges of its repertoire notwithstanding, was born from instinct – and from a spirit of joy and simplicity.

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