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Bach: Five Keyboard ConcertosRamin Bahrami, Gewandhausorchester, Riccardo Chailly (Decca)
We’re spoilt for choice in these concertos; Perahia, Schiff and Hewitt have given us excellent versions, and another new one by Alexandre Tharaud has just been released by Virgin Classics. I prefer Bach’s solo keyboard music played on piano, but I’m willing to concede that period instruments can suit the keyboard concertos better, given the delicious contrast in timbre between harpsichord and bowed strings. These readings, played by the Iranian-born pianist Ramin Bahrami, are good enough to make me never want to hear a harpsichord again. Subtly faster speeds mean that it’s possible to squeeze all five concertos onto one disc. And, combined with Chailly’s immaculate, big-hearted accompaniments, Bahrami’s effortless style and panache make listening to the disc a life-enhancing experience. Bach can be a scarily intense composer, but these pieces are among the most approachable he produced. The many sequential passages sound reassuringly predictable in places. You think you know what’s coming next and start humming along, only to be wrong footed by a quirky modulation or turn of phrase.
Bahrami plays with a jazzy flexibility and real sense of fun; passagework is immaculate and his left hand technique is superb, notably when the D minorconcerto’s main theme bounces around in the bass under right hand trills. He rarely touches the sustaining pedal, so the clarity is dazzling. In less flamboyant mode, Bahrami is compelling – the slow movements of the D major and F minorconcertos offer some of the most poised, musical playing you'll hear. Essential listening - Chailly’s recent modern instrument Bach recordings have all triumphed, and this disc is no exception.
Watch Ramin Bahrami play the Largo from Bach's 5th Keyboard Concerto on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Iv2Y8MFDJhA