The concept behind Lise de la Salle’s ‘Bach Unlimited’ is to interweave music either written by or inspired by JS Bach. In turn, composer Thomas Enhco provides short pieces that comment upon and link the major works. Bach’s Italian Concerto makes for an extrovert curtain-raiser by way of de la Salle’s frisky outer movements but she doesn’t equal Angela Hewitt (Hyperion, 3/01) or Murray Perahia (Sony Classical, 12/03) for refined contrapuntal acumen. Enhco’s Chant nocturne purportedly relates to the Italian Concerto’s slow movement; it’s actually closer to being the love child of Schubert’s ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’ and Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert.
De la Salle’s hard-hitting interpretation of Poulenc’s Valse-improvisation misses the music’s lithe and debonnaire point. The ‘groove’ set up at the outset of Enhco’s four-hand piece based on the letters of Bach’s name fails to sustain as the texture grows heavier with notes. By contrast, the Bach Busoni Chaconne scintillates from start to finish, and is closer to Kissin’s instinctive bravura (RCA, 12/98) than Hélène Grimaud’s more structured, intimately scaled reading (DG, 2/09). Encho’s La question de l’ange starts out as a two-part invention before reaching out all over the keyboard.
Roussel’s Op 46 features a Prelude that’s essentially Poulenc minus humour, followed by a fugue where the last note of the B A C H motif is displaced up an octave, to caustic effect. De la Salle revels in the Liszt B A C H Fantasia and Fugue’s full-bodied keyboard deployment and galvanic rhetoric, although Marc-André Hamelin’s extraordinary transparency and lightness remain the reference point (Hyperion, 5/11). The sparse serenity of Enhcos’s L’aube nous verra enables listeners to decompress and prepare for a soft landing to a fascinating, albeit uneven programme.