JS BACH Arrangements for Piano Duo
For their third Steinway & Sons release, the Anderson & Roe Piano Duo dedicate their uncanny ensemble prowess and canny programme-building to JS Bach. The eloquent reserve of Kurtág’s so-called E flat Sonatina leads into the C major Concerto for two keyboards (sans orchestra), which stands out for the duo’s gorgeously calibrated legato phrasing in the slow movement, plus relaxed propulsion and playful conversational ease in the fugal finale. While the idea of five St Matthew Passion numbers arranged into a two-piano suite is tantamount to box-office poison, it actually works. What is more, the duo’s restraint and taste reveal how the music’s expressive poignancy stands up without sung texts. Perhaps more varied phrasings would have brought out more of the Art of Fugue Contrapunctus IX’s vivacity but the pianists’ double-dotting in Bach’s two keyboard arrangement of the three-voice mirror fugue allows the music to dance off the page.
Subtle dissonant inflections and feathery staccato articulation distinguish a selection of Canons based on the Goldberg Variations’ ground. A specially arranged aria from Cantata No 127 (with the excellent violin soloist Augustin Hadelich as special guest) gently wanders into Romantic pianism’s registral extremes. The duo link the outer movements of the Bach/Reger Third Brandenburg Concerto (what a tempo for the final Allegro!) with a cadenza that liberally quotes from the Chromatic Fantasy’s arpeggiated chord sequence. And why not? After all, Bach borrowed – indeed, stole – from himself all the time. Certainly he would have embraced Anderson & Roe’s ingenuity and musicianship.