Piotr Anderszewski is a rather unconventional pianist on the current music scene. In his personal and uncompromising quest for beauty, he refuses the excessive media attention that some of his colleagues seek. Before the pandemic crisis began, the Polish pianist was rarely heard in concert or on recordings. Anderszewski has neither a career plan, nor media plan, he follows his own path to the top. Anderszewski has no career plan or media plan, he ploughs his own furrow without worrying about what the critics, music lovers and the rest of the world might think. He may decide to live for ten months in a converted train carriage and travel between Poland and Hungary, take a year off, or replay an entire work as an encore to a concert out of dissatisfaction with his performance.
Anderszewski’s Bach is not a historically informed Bach, but rather a poetic, singing and impressionistic Bach, not heard anywhere else. In this album devoted to the second book of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Anderszewski has chosen 12 of the 24 preludes and fugues composed by Bach, which he has rearranged in a subjective and personal order in order to rediscover ‘the sense of drama’:
« I have long wondered to what extent Bach’s Preludes and Fugues from Das Wohltemperierte Klavier are suitable for the concert platform. Although they were deliberately published in a logical chromatic order, it seems to me that order is not one in which the pieces follow each other with an emotional, musical inevitability. […]
Looking beyond the contrapuntal science they display, I perceive these works as character pieces, and while studying them I realised the particular importance of giving each theme of each fugue a specific character (Bach gives us complete freedom here, there are no indications from the composer whatsoever). I am convinced that in order to reveal all their architectural rigour and beauty, these distinct characters must be carried from the first voice introducing each fugue right through to the end of the piece, as implacably as possible. » (Booklet of the album)
As the Polish pianist explained on France Musique in January, this record was made possible by the lockdown and the cancellation of concerts. Both in concert and on record, the pianist’s commitment is total. This is a particularity that struck me every time I heard him in concert halls. He seems to create a bubble around himself and the piano, into which the audience is drawn, so that during his concerts there is an almost religious silence.
This album is built on contrasts, as critic Michael Cookson analysed in her review for the Musicweb International website: « In the full set, Bach, with only seven exceptions, does not indicate tempi, dynamics or articulation, leaving the player free to interpret each piece with its own specific character and providing possibilities which seems to suit this creative soloist down to the ground. Anderszewski positions his chosen pieces using his own sequence based at times on ‘key relationships’ and also ‘on contrasts’. » Anderszewski sculpts the music, creating a dialogue between these preludes and fugues, thanks to a phrasing of great clarity, capable of the most minute nuances. His velvety, pearly touch is delicate and lively in Prelude No. 12 in F minor, lively and dancing in Fugue No. 12 in F minor, airy and sinuous in Prelude No. 7 in E flat, urgent and incisive in Prelude No. 23 in B major, but also melancholic in Fugue No. 18 in G sharp minor, hieratic in Prelude No. 23 in B major, introspective and dark in Fugue No. 22 in B flat minor.
This magnificent album by Piotr Anderszewski is a rare album in a very noisy age. It is the work of a poet, who takes the time to explore the works, to let them mature and blossom under his fingers, and who patiently builds musical cathedrals, sculpted in shadow and light.