bach tranquillity divine art

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Jonathan Phillips (piano)
rec. 2019/21, Church of St John the Evangelist, Oxford, UK
Divine Art DDX21102 [76]

This is a programme of Bach’s keyboard music which is ‘for anyone hoping to gain an overriding sense of stillness, calm, contemplation and reverence’, to quote the note by the performer. Jonathan Phillips casts his net widely; apart from original works intended for the clavier, there are transcriptions by Bach himself, Busoni, August Stradl and Alexander Siloti. The sources include the Well-tempered Clavier, chorale preludes for organ, a slow movement of an organ concerto (arranged from Vivaldi by Bach), a movement from one of the Organ Trio Sonatas, the slow movement of the Italian Concerto and two Sarabandes from the French and English Suites. All the items are very well played in a way which makes you forget that you are listening to modern grand piano; one is simply conscious of Bach’s music, which is as it should be.

It is not intended a criticism to state that, taken as a whole, the contents of this disc do not constitute a satisfying programme because they are not meant to. Listened to at one sitting, there is, inevitably, a lack of contrast, but I doubt whether that was the intention. Divided into groups of 6 or 7 tracks, the effect is very pleasing and in the best possible way, tranquillising. It did make me want to hear more of Jonathan Phillips’ Bach-playing and I hope that he may be encouraged to commit more of the composer’s music to disc, perhaps to explore other facets of Bach’s musical personality.

Martyn Strachan

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Prelude in F minor, BWV 857
Ich ruf zu dir, BVW 639
Organ Concerto in D minor, BWV 596 – Largo
Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659a
Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 – Aria
Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor BWV 849
Prelude in B major, BWV 868
Prelude in F sharp minor, BWV 883
Prelude in B minor, BWV 855a
Organ Prelude in E minor, BWV 533 ((sic) actually BWV 555)
Organ Sonata No.4 in E minor, BWV 528 – Adagio
Italian Concerto, BWV 971 – Andante
English Suite No.2 in A minor, BWV 807 – Sarabande
French Suite No.1 in D minor, BWV 812 – Sarabande
Concerto in D minor for Oboe after Marcello, BWV 974
Toccata in C major, BWV 564 – Adagio
Prelude and Fugue in E flat minor, BWV 853
Prelude in B flat minor, BWV 867
Actus Tragicus, BWV 106 – Sonatina