BACH; CHOPIN Confluences
Josep Colom does more than merely intersperse Bach Preludes from The Well-Tempered Clavier and various Nocturnes and Études by Chopin. He juxtaposes most of them with careful consideration vis-à-vis key relationships and textural commonalities, and improvises (at least I think he improvises) seamless transitions that connect the pieces, assiduously interweaving all of the music into a continuous, mosaic-like fabric.
For example, after the Chopin ‘Black Key’ Étude’s climactic cascading octaves and concluding chord, Colom cuts off that chord except for a lone, sustained G flat. This note dovetails into a lyrical single melody line that first explores a G flat pentatonic scale but soon modulates and ambles its way into the vicinity of the Bach E minor Prelude’s basic rhythm. The Bach Prelude starts before you know it. At the Prelude’s end, Colom effects a shorter linear bridge that quickly yet comfortably eases into Chopin’s E flat minor Étude. By contrast, a longer, cadenza-like passage provides a convincingly Chopinesque passageway from the latter’s B major Nocturne, Op 9 No 3, to Bach’s F sharp minor Prelude. As the programme approaches its final stages, Colom dispenses with interludes, save for just a handful of notes to provide a little wiggle-room between the Bach C minor Prelude’s rhapsodic ending and the arpeggio floodgate of Chopin’s C minor Étude, Op 25 No 12.
Sometimes Colom’s performances downplay stylistic differences to the point of homogeneity. Notice, for instance, the almost romanticised dynamic contrasts of the Bach C major Prelude leading into more intimately sculpted, less glittery extended figurations than usual in the Chopin Étude in the same key, Op 10 No 1. The diptych of Bach’s D major Prelude/Chopin’s F major Étude, Op 10 No 8, share similar holds, hesitations and taperings one otherwise might question in stand-alone readings. In other words, more incisive and diversely characterised interpretation would not only strengthen the case for Colom’s provocative programme-building but also help sustain interest over repeated hearings.