Evgeny Koroliovʼs Golberg variations have become a cult recording. Seldom has this monumental piece sounded so purely musical, with such natural rhetorics, in fact simply so beautiful as in his hands. This recording was showered with international prizes, such as Diapason dʼor and others. György Ligeti chose Koroliovʼs Bach as his desert island disc : “forsaken and dying of thirst, I would listen to it up ʻtil my last breath”. Koroliov was born in Russia in 1949, his teachers were Maria Yudina, Heinrich Neuhaus and Lev Oborin. He soon settled in Hamburg/Germany, from where he developed his international career as a soloist and much-in-demand teacher.
The back cover of this Czech release promises "certainly the most intense chamber programme that might be dedicated to the joint memory of Sviatoslav Richter and Dmitry Shostakovich," and the performances live up to the billing. The first half of the program is given over to a pair of string quartets from the year 1960, around the point where Shostakovich's inward turn following his denunciation by Soviet cultural commissars merged with his reflections on the violence of modern war to create a uniquely modern tragic dialogue.
Over the past five years, pianist Anna Vinnitskaya has made three Alpha recordings dedicated to Shostakovitch, Brahms et Rachmaninov. Evgeni Koroliov is a great master of the piano, a great Bach specialist, whose recordings of Bach are an acclaimed benchmark. His piano duo with his wife, Ljupka Hadzi-Georgieva, has made its mark over the past few years in all the major international concert venues. Also a highly reputed teacher, Koroliov was Anna Vinnitskaya’s professor at Hamburg.
Christopher Czaja Sager is highly regarded by music critics on both sides of the Atlantic: “Christopher Czaja Sager is truly perceptive, sensitive and imaginative and a deeply-gifted musician of rare qualities and values. He is worthy of the highest expectations and highest values”.
There's nothing at all wrong with Maurizio Pollini's 2009 performance of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1. The Italian pianist's intellectual lucidity, interpretive clarity, and technical virtuosity are apparent in every prelude and fugue, and his probing insights and penetrating analysis inform every note. However, there is almost nothing right with the sound quality of the recording. The piano sounds too distant, making it hard to hear precisely what Pollini is doing, but oddly, the ambient sound is too present, making every extraneous noise too loud. One should not hear the pedals being pressed and lifted, much less the clatter of the hammers and the twanging of the strings above the sound of the music. Worse yet, one can hear what sounds like every breath Pollini takes nearly as loudly as every note he plays. These are all grievous flaws that should have been eliminated, and their presence fatally undermines the brilliance of Pollini's performances. A reengineered version of these performances would be most welcome, but the present recording is so flawed that it virtually destroys Pollini's playing.