ANDREA PADOVA – PRELUDES & INTERLUDES
Andrea Padova – piano
Andrea Padova, Johann Sebastian Bach
Preludes & Interludes
In 1723, when Johann Sebastian Bach applied for a position in Leipzig, the town council reluctantly settled on him as their third choice, voicing regret that they couldn’t attract the best talent. Today, his reputation as perhaps the greatest composer who ever lived is unquestioned. The importance of the elder Bach—whose many offspring included several important and unique musical figures, such as the turbulent Carl Philip Emanuel Bach and the songful, Italianate Johann Christian Bach—lies both in the extraordinary skill he demonstrated and in the wide array of styles he incorporated in his works, creating a kind of summation of trends in his time.
His Notebook for Wilhem Friedemann, a study guide written for his eldest son, reflects Bach’s compositional genius and his embrace of disparate materials. The volume, compiled in about 1720, gathers pieces that would also make their way into The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, as well as the Inventions, with contributions by other composers he admired, including Leipzig’s first choice, his friend Georg Philipp Telemann. Among the works adapted in the present project is Bach’s arrangement of Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel’s aria, “Bist du bei mir,” included here, which appears in the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, another home-made collection named for his second wife.
Pianist Andrea Padova—whose performance of these works strikes a perfect balance between the refined and the soulful—has taken a cue from the old master himself, expanding the initial compilation by reimagining Bach’s inspirations, adding another artful perspective to the original mix, incorporating twenty-first century perspectives. No doubt J.S. Bach would have approved.
The pianist pivots between Bach’s sketches and his own original music on alternate tracks. Though they clearly emerge from different worlds, there is a common thread between the two. In the hands of some interpreters, Baroque music’s intricate, interweaving melody lines and motoric rhythms can become mechanical and emotionally detached, but Padova invests this material with a sense of intimacy, and his own compositions enhance that sensibility while exploring new directions.
The contrasts and connections make sense dramatically. For example, the Bach Prelude, BWV 924, gently arpeggiated, is followed by Padova’s Interlude I, where strings of tones stretch out and take dark, Romantic twists and turns. The lively Prelude BWV 927 is followed by an equally jaunty Interlude III, while Bach’s pensive Prelude BWV 939 leads into a rippling, impressionistic Interlude IV.
The dancelike Prelude BWV 937 introduces a joyous and expansive Interlude V, offering hints of Stephen Sondheim. Interlude VII’s dense harmonies and New Age tinge offer an amiable alternate vision of eighteenth-century compositional approaches, as does the Postlude, which transforms stormy, Baroque-like figures into a powerful, rocking finale, leaving no doubt about its year of composition. It is a fitting conclusion to this far-reaching artistic journey. — Stuart Isacoff