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Fanfare

BEETHOVEN: Six bagatelles, op. 126.
LISZT: Sonata in B Minor.
BACH: The Art of theFugue, BWV 1080.
SCRIABIN: Sonata No. 9, op. 68 ("Black Mass"). Desire, op. 57. no. 1. Poem op. 59, no. 1.

In the nineteenth century, (the supervirtuosos gave recitals of such Herculean lengths as this one, but they were usually broken up by happy fluff such as showy opera paraphrases. Vieru's program is relentlessly "serious" (he calls it old man's music), and while I am not sure if I could endure the experience in the cramped confines of a concert hall seat, in the comfort of one's home, or on a long car trip, this is a remarkable and enriching musical experience. Incidentally, I have no idea how the producers have managed to squeeze two and a half hours onto two CDS, there are no technical credits.

Vieru, a Romanian native, is an artist almost pathologically disinterested in outward impressions, as the pretentious program notes makeinsistently clear. The selection of music is the first indication of such an attitude. Although all of the composers represented are major figures, Vieru chooses his repertoire in an iconoclastic way.

The one big Romantic opus is the Liszt sonata, and Vieru plays it for all it is worth. I found his approach highly reminiscent of the 1929 performance of Alfred Cortot, with whom he shares a tremendous feel for coloristic effects, as well as a healthy disregard for technical perfection. When Vieru is blazing, a phrase may blur, and a note or two might drop, sacrificed for the passion of the moment. How different this is from the fanatical perfectionism of Pollini and Brendel, but for me, it goes nearer the core of the music. The tonal richness Vieru maintains even at very loud levels is another quality he has in common with Cortot.

Perhaps the most important element of Vieru's playing that ties him to such golden age pianists as Cortot (and distinguishes him from people like Pollini and Brendel) is his integration of tempo variation into his dynamic phrasing. This is not simply a matter of rubato playing and agogic accents. Vieru will speed up and put on the brakes as the music compels him to do so. although the written score may not specifically instruct this. This interpretive device is so organically achieved that it is not readily apparent to a listener that does not know the score, or has not heard the music played in the more rigid manner of most contemporary pianists. Vieru's style is utterly natural.

Vieru brings this approach gracefully to the gentle Beethoven Bagatelles, producing a lovely performance of this quirky little masterpiece. The massive Bach is certainly made expressive by Vieru's broad, romantic leading; it is a matter of personal taste as to whether or not this is appropriate to the music. He announces at once his stately view of the music, taking twice as long as Kocsis, in his 1985 performance on solo piano, to get through the first Contrapunctus. Kocsis also employs more regular rhythms and a lighter touch. Vieru's Bach is unabashedly pianistic, somewhat in the manner of Richter. Like Richter, Vieru uses color and dynamic phrasing to underline the polyphonal texture of the music, although Bach did not have these devices at his disposal. So, although this kind of Bach playing is, strictly speaking, inauthentic, it is never unmusical, which is far more important.

This is a live performance, and one can only imagine the hypnotic spell this music must have cast, as, seventy-five minutes after the somber start, Vieru projected the final, incomplete lines of Bach's deathbed summation of his life's wok into the still air.

Peter Burwasser

Le Monde

BEETHOVEN: Six bagatelles, op. 126.
LISZT: Sonata in B Minor.
BACH: The Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080.
SCRIABIN: Sonata No. 9, op. 68 ("Black Mass"). Desire, op. 57. no. 1. Poem op. 59, no. 1.

Best recordings of the year

A Romanian now resident in Paris, Vieru has recorded Bach's Art of Fugue. He plays this great formal arch by bringing out its polyphony like no one else. Vieru is capable of singing the lines with the naturalness of a Rubinstein, of pointing up the structural landmarks with the firmness of a Richter.

Anne Rey

Répertoire

BEETHOVEN: Six bagatelles, op. 126.
LISZT: Sonata in B Minor.
BACH: The Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080.
SCRIABIN: Sonata No. 9, op. 68 ("Black Mass"). Desire, op. 57. no. 1. Poem op. 59, no. 1.

Vieru is a pianist of classical tastes, but of a supreme austerity and an intellectual concentration to be found only in the very greatest.

He shuns the pretty, the delicate, the anecdotal. He belongs to the race of the Richters and the Arraus, those whom nothing diverts from the essential.

His sonic imagination is always present, his power astonishing, and his precision surgical.

Jacques Bonnaure

 

Le Monde de la Musique

BEETHOVEN: Six bagatelles, op. 126.
LISZT: Sonata in B Minor.
BACH: The Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080.
SCRIABIN: Sonata No. 9, op. 68 ("Black Mass"). Desire, op. 57. no. 1. Poem op. 59, no. 1.

He possesses intelligence, but also unfailing professionalism. Rare, secret, and therefore precious.

If Vieru were a conductor, one would expect to hear him in Bruckner, so skilled is he at construction: his Art of Fugue attains perfection because it is not conceived theatrically, as twenty short scenes, the final one relating the creator's death, but because the pianist withdraws entirely to display the work with humility, to render it lucid throughout its duration.

Here at last is a pianist whose instrument does not sound like today's piano - snappy, contrasted, terribly "sound-object", "unheard-of" but like an immemorial instrument, an instrument of wisdom. A piano one had forgotten under the fingers of musicians of his generation.

Olivier Bernager

 

Diapason

BEETHOVEN: Six bagatelles, op. 126
LISZT: Sonata in B Minor
BACH: The Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080.
SCRIABIN: Sonata No. 9, op. 68 ("Black Mass"). Desire, op. 57. no. 1. Poem op. 59, no. 1.

The dazzling mastery of the text displayed by the artist is even more obvious in The Art of Fugue.

The path he lays out ignores facility, but behind this austerity of tone all Bach's vibrant humanity is present. For that alone, the album is indispensable.

Alain Cochard

 

Répertoire Guide

He spurns prettiness and delicacy to go straight to the essence of things. The result is a fascinating recording of The Art of Fugue, the finest yet made... A profound artist.

 

HI-FI News & Record Review

BEETHOVEN: Diabelli Variations, Eleven Bagatelles Op. 119

For one former HFN/RR contributor, I see, Andreï Vieru's 1996 Rouen recording of the Diabelli variations lacks 'the defiant Beethovenian fist'. Well, it may not be after the manner of Serkin, but what if the name 'Horszowski' (who made an acclaimed Vox LP back in 1953) had been listed on the cover? No, I reject that lukewarm assessment: for me, this young Bucharest musician really has something to say. To be candid, it's easy to "switch off" during this long work (just as with Bach's Goldberg set) but Vieru draws one afresh into each successive Variation; his playing is authoritative yet quite individual - almost soft-spoken, as it were.

Some are taken more slowly than I would normally like, eg, VIII poco vivace; XI allegretto; and XV grave e maestoso, in which there is a luminous beauty with sudden white shafts of sound. The Fuga (the penultimate variation before the enigmatic Menuetto) is rigorous but never hectoring, or coldly intellectualized; nothing is missed, eg., the unexpected grace note after the pounding bass octaves (track 44 1m 16 s), and the change in mood for the second part - semiquavers after the fermata (1m 44s) - has a real 'lift' to it. He's not wholly unlike fellow Rumanian Radu Lupu, with his beautiful sound and elegance of style. Without denying the listener warmth, he presents the logic of these pieces with a certain objectivity. The eleven Bagatelles are carefully worked out in tempo relationships to lend them unity, and dynamic markings are scrupulously observed, even if the rubato can be quite marked (as in the 3/4 Vivace moderato, No.9). No.5, Risoluto, is taken fairly slowly, which allows the trills sensible accommodation. The sound ranges from good to magnificent, and I strongly recommend this coupling.

 

 

American Record Guide

BEETHOVEN: Eleven Bagatelles op. 119
BEETHOVEN: Diabelli Variations op. 120

These are warm, full-bodied readings that easily navigate Beethoven's imaginative Diaspora. Ideas proliferate. Each variation assumes a character all its own. He finds the ideal tempo, too, for Diabelli's bumptious little theme that Beethoven transforms and indicts, in less than an hour, as an emblem of the status quo... Witness, too, Vieru's ruminative, even melancholy manipulation of the serpentine melisma in XXXI that so poignantly expresses Beethoven's philosophical ambivalence: the bourgeois banality of Diabelli's initial statement is at last transfigured into spriritual exaltation. Mr. Vieru shares an unusually rich, bronze sound, a creamy legato and a plentiful pianissimo made of velvet.

 

 

Fono Forum

BEETHOVEN: Diabelli Variations, Eleven Bagatelles Op. 119

In his discography of the Diabelli Variations, Jens Hagestedt regretted the fact that Gould had left no recording of the work and that hardly any pianists had given a satisfactory interpretation of the central section of the Largo. Vieru has filled this gap - his playing in the difficult passages is marvellously elastic.

Malte Krasting

 

Le Bien public

BEETHOVEN: Onze Bagatelles op. 119
BEETHOVEN: Diabelli Variations op. 120

The artist's rigour achieves its aim. Everything is said here: the wit, the rhythm, the breaks, the epic, enigmatic, martial character, the humour, the tension, the explosive dramatic shocks, the gentleness and the joy.

 

 

Haute Fidélité

BEETHOVEN: Eleven Bagatelles op. 119
BEETHOVEN: Diabelli Variations op. 120

A secretive pianist and an uncommon artist, this thinker of music is also a poet, capable of making the notes sing and dance thanks to an exceptionally subtle touch.

Philippe Venturini

 

Le Monde de la Musique

BEETHOVEN: Eleven Bagatelles op. 119
BEETHOVEN: Diabelli Diabelli op. 120

One is gradually won over by the pianist's self-effacing manner, which becomes almost mysterious, even dreamlike, in the final variations, yet without neglecting their share of humour and humanity.

With the same singularity, Vieru reconciles fervour, calm, and lofty vision.

Patrick Szernowicz

 

Gramophone

MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition
STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring

"Here are two works ablaze with Russian revolutionary fervour, challenging convention and extending all previously known musical parameters. And it says much for the Romanian pianist, Andreï Vieru, that he can re-create so much of Mussorgsky's familiar score in its first pioneering glory...

Pictures at an Exhibition: The overall impact is vital and sensitive. In the 'Old castle' there is an impressive sense of wonder, of 'battles lost and won' and he is truly sepulchral and mysterious in Catacombae.

Stravinsky's Rite of Spring is heard in the composer's two-piano version and here Vieru is joined by his teacher and compatriot Dan Grigore. Their performance, from that first primal call to attention to the ensuing hyperactivity is magnificently authoritative. Both pianists play across the vast spectrum of Stravinsky's technique and imagination with a suitable sense of aplomb and scrupulous attention to detail.

 

 

American Record Guide

MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition
STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring

For those of us who grew up on Boris Godounov and flew into paroxysms on hearing Stokowski conduct his version of Pictures, Mussorgsky's original piano score paled in comparison.

Whatever its mode of delivery, Pictures is a pivotal musical experience, the aesthetic chronicle of a proto-populist (Mussorgsky authority Caryl Emerson would quite correctly call that an over-simplification) in love with black bread and honey, fir trees and snow. But no one with a love for the Russian language and culture can fail to be moved by its historical breadth and essential humanity: like a yellowed old photograph from the years that are dead, it carries in itself something of the time and culture that gave birth to it more than a century ago.

But it does this with greater specificity than most works of art, in that it captures - or at the very least, mimics with uncanny accuracy - the peculiar inflections, rhythms and cadences of the Russian language. Within its compositional walls the language's hollow resonance burgeons, while its reservoir of myagkiye znaki (soft signs), breathy vowels, and glottal stops burst forth with unmistakable rhetorical energy.

It could be argued that Romanian pianist Andreï Vieru grasps all this in this lively and intelligent account. His tempos are brusque, and balances and dynamics are meticulously calculated. Putting this monolithic behemoth under the microscope, Vieru drives things forward by paying careful attention to the smallest motive units. It's a somewhat baroque reading that appreciates the power of succinct characterization. But that's hardly an alien concept for the interpretation of Mussorgsky in light of the composer's own aesthetics - which, like his baroque predecessors, embraced speech-rhythm as the fuel of affect.

Vieru eschews the customary heroics associated with the louder sections of the work, favoring instead a streamlined sinuousness that reduces its scale, as if he were observing it all from a great height. The gallery here is less suggestive of the grandeur of the Hermitage, with its endless labyrinths and abundance of rococo facades, than it is of the intimacies of the Frick Collection and its discrete parlors, vestibules, and drawing rooms. In the latter, the eye is drawn almost exclusively to the paintings, as opposed to the environment where they are exhibited.

While I admire Vieru's discrete, sotto voce approach as a welcome change from the thundering bravura so routinely encountered, his way with Pictures is sometimes too refined. There are some innovative effects (the subito attacca going into 'Gnomus', for example, is delivered with admirable punch and verve). 'Il Vecchio Castello' is modestly drawn, like a pencil etching rather than an ornately framed oil. Here Vieru seems to admire the architectural details of the old castle - its angled turrets and flying buttresses, its manicured grounds and shadowy silhouettes thrown in relief by the rays of the sun.

Vieru's touch is light and laser-like and favors a certain détaché in the left hand. 'Hut of Baba Yaga' benefits from such leggiero, as it flies near-perfect off the page. But Vieru paints a witch without warts, a somewhat sanitized Hollywood ogre with satiny, if green skin and a wardrobe to match.

This, then, is an idealized Pictures, pristinely played with authority and good taste. It's is a fine reading that, at the very least. rejects the pompous heavy-handedness that less gifted pianists bring to it.

Le Sacre du Printemps is likewise elegant and urbane. Here, though, I must agree with Richard Taruskin, who, in Defining Russia Musically, objects to "the emphasis placed on fleet precision and athletic virtuosity that... ignores the crushing strain the music was meant to evoke". Still, the ensemble playing here is astounding, as Vieru and Dan Grigore sail through this transcription by Stravinsky himself (originally for piano 4-hands, but wisely performed here on two pianos). It's an extremely impressive performance.

The recorded sound is clear and transparent, without a scintilla of wow or distortion - an impressive engineering accomplishment, given the often pumped-up volume of the music itself.

Young

 

Classic FM

MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition
STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring

The Rite of Spring piano duet version has something essential to offer. Stravinsky himself made it for rehearsal purposes, and it snaps the music's explosive energy and originality into startlingly sharp focus, as Andreï Vieru and Dan Grigore demonstrate in their impressive performance. While the music's percussive rhythms have great force on two pianos some of the less foot-stamping passages - such as the introduction to Part I, or the 'Ritual action of ancestors' - sound just as intriguing. For good measure there's a colourful, strongly articulated altogether excellent performance by Vieru alone of an earlier Russian masterwork in its original piano version: Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

 

 

CD Compact

The Rumanian pianist Andreï Vieru made a stunning appearance in the CD market about one year ago with a magnificent recording of Mussorgsky's Pictures coupled with the Stravinsky's Rite of Spring two pianos version. Having listened to them, my attention was immediately drawn by many features which are similar to those of his compatriot Radu Lupu: a sound of big density, a very orchestral conception of the instrument, a big interpretative subjectivity...

 

 

Classic CD Magazine

MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition
STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring

Le Sacre: played with such gusto and recorded with such presence and fullness. Very fine playing of unusual coupling.

Vieru is an excellent performer of the Mussorgsky work, bringing out its varieties of colour, making sure it coheres.

 

American Record Guide

BACH: Anna Magdalena Notebook (excerpts)
BACH/VIERU: 14 canons on the first eight notes of the Goldberg theme
BACH: Goldberg Variations

Andreï Vieru's father is a composer and his mother a musicologist. What an extraordinary childhood he must have had. It shows in the unusual selection of music and performance on this new HM release. The Goldbergs are put, in a fuller aesthetic context than usual, because Vieru also plays music from Anna Magdalena's Book, whence comes the aria that Bach takes as his theme for the variations. Vieru plays the chorale settings of 'Wer nur den lieben Gott lasst walten' (S 691), 'Gib dich zufrieden und sei stille' (S510-5121, and 'Dir, dir, Jehova' (S299); the first prelude from Book I of the WTC; the Scherzo and Burlesca from the A-minor Partita and the Air from the E-minor Partita; and the little March in D (now believed to be by CPE Bach). And if that isn't enough, Vieru also plays his own unusual version of the 14 canons on the first eight notes of the Goldberg theme 1976. His conception of the canons is very free and it includes clever but eccentric little intrusions from the Anna Magdalena pieces and the variations in addition to the canons themselves. Putting aside such forgivable eccentricities, I can report that Vieru's music-making is full-bodied, heartfelt, traditionally romantic. I doubt there will be any interpretations of the little chorale settings from the Anna Magdalena pieces that are as deep any time soon. And of course, to hear such penetrating readings of familiar music from the WTC and the Partitas makes me wonder what a complete Vieru recording of either might sound like. His Goldbergs are often on the meditative side of the tempo spectrum, but Vieru makes a lot of changes in volume, tone, and articulation so that each variation has a very individual character. And like Glenn Gould, Vieru has a gift of making Bach's counterpoint crystal-clear. He takes few of the repeats.

There are many great moments in this performance. Here are a few. Variation 1 flows along in an easy Allegro, delicate and lyrical. Variation 2 is perky with a fine measure of non legato playing, sudden changes of mood, and clear distinction among the three polyphonic voices. Variations 15 and 25 have a wonderful stillness. (His version of Variation 15 is a great antidote for Metz's businesslike interpretation, which I still had in my mind.) And in the final four measures of the Quodlibet (Variation 30), Vieru makes a remarkable diminuendo and expansive ritardando, as if a celestial music box is winding down to silence.

Rob Haskins

 

BBC Music Magazine

BACH: Anna Magdalena Notebook (excerpts)
BACH/VIERU: 14 canons on the first eight notes of the Goldberg theme
BACH: Goldberg Variations

... his Goldberg is forthright, sensitive and always appealingly phrased...

 

 

Classic CD Magazine

BACH: Anna Magdalena Notebook (excerpts)
BACH/VIERU: 14 canons on the first eight notes of the Goldberg theme
BACH: Goldberg Variations

Intimate, considered and selfless playing of Bach's masterpiece, set in an imaginative context.

Andreï Vieru is a sympathetic and lucid companion on the journey, whether it be guiding us carefully through the unexpected twists and turns of variation 12, lending an improvisatory air to 13 or producing a lively harpsichord sonority for no 20.

 

 

Diapason

BACH: Anna Magdalena Notebook (excerpts)
BACH/VIERU: 14 canons on the first eight notes of the Goldberg theme
BACH: Goldberg Variations

Vieru gets straight to the point in the Goldberg Variations. The work breathes, sometimes quivers, always with rigorous simplicity of tone. The precision of the playing gives each variation its character. What a soulful quality in the twenty-fifth variation! Vieru presents here a highly personal, and thereby exciting vision of a work too often said to be intellectual. It will leave no one indifferent.

Adelaïde de Place

Le Monde

BACH: Anna Magdalena Notebook (excerpts)
BACH/VIERU: 14 canons on the first eight notes of the Goldberg theme
BACH: Goldberg Variations

Vieru has long stood out as a singular and demanding talent. He carries out on the works he plays the kind of 'fundamental research' that distils the quintessence and opens up vistas.

M.-A. Roux

 

Le Monde de la Musique

BACH: Anna Magdalena Notebook (excerpts).
BACH/VIERU: 14 canons on the first eight notes of the Goldberg theme.
BACH: Goldberg Variations

As in his remarkable recent recording of the Diabelli Variations, Vieru analyses, questions, challenges the architecture and the details as he immerses himself in the universe of the Goldberg Variations.

His playing, bringing out the slightest accent, the slightest countermelody, neglects nothing and breathes with fervour. Vieru sets in relief a texture that avoids the purely factual, inclining towards expression and characterisation. The value of this nuanced approach lies in his intuitions and his agogic ease.

Patrick Szernovicz

 

www.bach-cantatas.com

BACH: Anna Magdalena Notebook (excerpts)
BACH/VIERU: 14 canons on the first eight notes of the Goldberg theme
BACH: Goldberg Variations

Andreï Vieru Records the Goldberg Variations & More

It certainly sounds like a great deal. Buy one disc and get the Goldbergs plus almost a dozen selections from the Anna Magdalena Notebook and the fourteen Canons on the eight basic notes of the Goldberg Aria. This is the programming provided by Harmonia Mundi's recent disc featuring pianist Andreï Vieru who is the son of the composer Anatol Vieru. The catalog number is HMC 901666, hand-picked by the Devil himself.

Of course, what sounds good on the surface often fizzles when looked at further. Although this disc has almost 76 minutes of music, only about 52 minutes is devoted to the main composition and Vieru is not the fastest of performers. Therefore, we don't get much in the way of repeats from him. I can live without repeats when the performances are of a very high quality such as with Gilbert, Rose, Leonhardt, or Gould. Lesser artists need all the repeats they can get. The matter for me to address is which category Vieru falls into.

Mr. Vieru is definitely at a very high level of performance and interpretation. I'd say he's a natural in Bach. Every variation strikes at the heart of Bach's music. Vieru does have his quirks including engaging in slowdowns now and then in the slower variations. But it really doesn't matter. Vieru is this music completely. Whatever he does, it works out magnificently. Pick any variation, and the man is living it. His rhythmic pulse and vitality are the best I've heard in any version of the Goldbergs.

Verlet, Gilbert, Koroliov, Hantai, Perahia, Hewitt, and a few others give excellent performances of the Goldberg Variations. Andreï Vieru's performances are better than theirs, and I believe they rival the Gould and Tureck recordings. I could run through each variation and rave about each of them, but I'd rather listen than write.

Concerning the other tracks on the disc, be assured that Vieru brings the same command of Bach's idiom to these pieces as well. I really love the depth he gives the chorals from the Anna Magdalena Notebook.

Important Sound Consideration - This review almost ended up being much less complimentary. With audio controls at the usual levels, I found Vieru's right hand playing to be rather flat and subservient to the left hand. At some point I boosted the treble way up (bass up a little) and his right hand and the music in general came amazingly to life. I've never noticed such as difference in a recording before. Reviews have not been the kindest, and I wonder if those reviewers made the necessary adjustments to listen to the real Vieru.

Conclusions: I praised a recent Bach recital recording by Celine Frisch on Harmonia Mundi. This same label has another superb young Bach performer in Andreï Vieru whose Goldberg Variations is one of the very best. I also recently praised a set from Karl Richter having the Goldberg Variations and Partitas for Harpsichord. Good times must be here again. If you feel any connection with my general preferences, you must have the Vieru recording as well as the Richter and Frisch.

Donald Satz

 

The Independent

J.S. BACH: The Well-tempered klavier, vol. I.

Bach is, of course, the ideal candidate for inventive recreation, and Andreï Vieru's set of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier Book One (Alpha/Harmonia Mundi 087, two discs *****) scores pretty high on the novelty front. In terms of style, Vieru can switch mood even during the course of a single piece, as he does in the final fugue where by gradually pushing the tempo he ferries us from relative darkness to blazing light. An avowed enemy of artists who side with "the archivists of art rather than with art itself", he dares to open his cycle with two performances of the First Prelude. He then goes on to repeat the Eighth Prelude after the Twelfth Fugue, and tail the Nineteenth Fugue with a second performance, as if it were a written repeat. All "second" performances are called "variants", which they are (in the subtlest terms), their principal appeal being that we can virtually hear Vieru's brain tick in time with the music. He certainly makes you think.

Rob Cowan

 

ROB HASKINS: The Classical Listening - Two Decades of Reviews from the American Record Guide

 

Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I
Andrei Vieru, piano
Alpha 87 (2 CDs) 139 minutes (2006)
    I was always struck by the story Pablo Casals told of playing a prelude and fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier every day: he called them "my morning prayers". There is something in the Well-Tempered Clavier that reminds me of a liturgical calendar or maybe the Psalms that are chanted every week in the Office. And I think it was Bülow who likened both books to the Old and New Testaments. My experience with many recordings of the Well-Tempered Clavier has made it possible, more and more, to experience each book in one sitting, so long as the performances are both sufficiently varied and work as a cohesive whole. And there’s the rub: it’s extraordinarily difficult to fulfill those two conditions on a recording. Too often are the moments of marking time — as if the priests, chanting on Wednesday, wonder how long they need to wait for dinner and how they will make it through the week.
    But some performers are getting closer to achieving this tremendous feat. Andrei Vieru’s account of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I is a few preludes and fugues short of miraculous.
He takes slower tempos than usual, though most aren’t all that much slower. The lugubrious D-sharp minor prelude is one of the slowest, but the piano can sustain the lines and it’s fine. Interestingly, the fugue is at a much more moderate tempo and offers a pleasant surprise. The articulation tends toward nice, legato, singing lines — you’ll never catch me complaining about such playing. He builds the piece to a kind of negative climax with the F-sharp minor fugue, which is probably the slowest performance on record (almost seven minutes) — slower than Gould, slower than Landowska. It makes a great effect because afterward the pieces pick up some momentum (never too much, though — this is a mostly ruminative performance). One exception is the A-major, which perks along until the sixteenth notes erupt into texture, when he picks up the tempo and the effect works very well.
    Sometimes Vieru offers what he calls "variants" — not so much performances of alternate textual readings as they are alternate performances.The distinctions are sometimes minute. For instance, the difference between two performances of the C-major prelude seems to be that one is played with pedal and one without; the difference for the two E-flat minor prelude is a little more elusive, but I found that I preferred the second one (which was placed at the end of the first disc) better. I have not heard such an approach to the Well-Tempered Clavier in more than twenty years of listening. Landowska and Martin Galling (both harpsichord performances) come close, but there is something in the Vieru that neither of them has — probably a better-sounding instrument and more lustrous CD sound. Having listened to these pieces many times on the harpsichord, I also want to commend Vieru for not overemphasizing appearances of the fugue subjects and for allowing the rich fabric of Bach’s accompanying counterpoint its due. There are some old-fashioned elements: many cadences lack ornaments, for instance. But all in all, I have not heard a  Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I quite like this one — it is the most exciting performance I have heard in a long time.

 

 

www.diverdi.com

J.S. BACH: The Well-tempered klavier, vol. I

"The past is dead". So begins the pianist Andreï Vieru his valuable short article about the continuance of works of art and in this manner he endeavours to justify, without mentioning it, his choice of a Steinway piano to perform these works where everybody would have anticipated - coming from a label such as Alpha - hearing them on the harpsichord. Raising themselves far above such sickly controversies, Vieru and Combet prove with this marvel that there is still hope...

 

Classical Net Review

J.S. BACH: The Well-tempered klavier, vol. I

Moving from Luc Beausejour to Andreï Vieru is a most advantageous decision. The music now takes on an organic quality with an abundant sense of improvisation, freshness, deep thought, illumination of the architecture and a deep-rooted love of the full range of Bach's musical personality.

Any reservations I have read from other reviews center around the premise that Vieru makes too much use of the pedals, but my view is that his performances are delightfully lush. Of course, a lush sound can damage the clarity of musical detail, but Vieru amazingly offers highly detailed readings that refine Bach's contrapuntal lines. At the same time, there is a noteworthy sensual element to the performances that I have not noticed in other versions of the Well-Tempered Clavier.

Vieru's set has a host of compelling features that makes it among the top echelon of recordings.

Donald Satz

Le Monde

J.S. BACH: The Well-tempered klavier, vol. I

Each element of The Well-tempered Clavier can be a thing and its opposite. This is demonstrated by the Romanian pianist Vieru, who has sprinkled his recording of the first book, just released by Alpha, with variants, included within the sequence of the twenty-four preludes and fugues.

Vieru cares nothing for Baroque grammar and vocabulary. But with him that fact seems secondary, so clearly structured is the pianist's playing. Right from the first prelude, the famous 'white-key' prelude in C major, but in his second version of the piece, Vieru lets us hear a crescendo in the breakdown of the sound, gradually overpowered by the 'liquidity' afforded by the loud pedal and the slight slowing in tempo. In the space of a few instants, an 'acoustic theatre' is set up.

The sonority is a lustrous bronze, deep-seated, conducive to fine gradations of density, texture, and articulation; the pedalling is subtle. The long fugues find in this noble but never overweening playing one of their finest incarnations on disc: the concluding fugue of the first book, in the same tormented B minor as the Kyrie of the B minor Mass, proclaims as much with that blinding evidence which is the exclusive preserve of the great interpreters.

Renaud Machart

Diapason

J.S. BACH: The Well-tempered klavier, vol. I

There follows an astonishing Prelude in C minor, as Aeolian as Chopin's Étude op.25 no.1. Vieru has set out to vary the angles, make the bass sing, rebalance the voices, articulate in bars rather than beats. He orchestrates each piece but never proceeds by instrumental imitation. Or does he? Listen to these majestic fugue subjects stated in the low register, noble and slightly dragging, as if sung on an organ pedal-board. Or, in the Prelude in B flat major, the bariolages divided between the two hands, which here acquire a guitaristic fluidity.

Equally unexpected is the reorganisation of the hierarchy of voices and sonic perspectives, through calm tempos, without ever crossing the threshold of exaggeration. Often attenuating the brightness of the upper voices, he sometimes modifies the very character of these pieces, taking them in the direction of a loftily assumed consolatory melancholy. The gentleness that bathes the whole first book is due to Vieru's individual style of phrasing, which subtly exploits variations in colour and intensity to guide the phrases. His Bach is often portrayed as 'interiorised', but it would be more accurate here to speak of its confidential tone.

Nicolas Baron

www.ramifications.be

J.S. BACH: The Welltempered klavier, vol. I

The precise architecture of The Well-tempered Clavier does not exclude richly emotional, quivering sensibility: these preludes and fugues are by turns bewitching, melancholy, unsettling or joyful, lively and vertiginous. Vieru expresses their nuances without betraying their unity or disturbing their gentle, sustained elevation towards serene clarity. No crack in the texture tarnishes their brilliance, and yet their fragile humanity shines through in the gentle radiance of the Romanian pianist, which felicitously suggests the perseverance of the soul until it takes flight.

Isabelle Françaix

Diverdi

J.S. BACH: The Welltempered klavier, vol. I

Vieru has therefore sat down at his Steinway and, it must be acknowledged, has completely penetrated the spirit of the composition, to offer us its precious succession of preludes and fugues - with a profound lyricism, with sovereign equilibrium, respecting all their rhythmic and harmonic subtleties.

Vieru's reading is free from dynamic contrasts foreign to the work. His choice of tempi has nothing artificial or extreme about it. On the other hand, there is an unusually precise and refined treatment of timbres, without any roughness in the tissue of sound, without pointless technical feats that might have jeopardised the solidity of the architecture. The timbres do not lack body. Their hierarchisation is superb; the understanding of the counterpoint is exquisite, with the intensity of sound precisely delimited to make the ideal impact.

(. . .) A poetic flight of the utmost subtlety that constantly articulates and animates the immense structural rigour of these sonic edifices, at once so light and so complex.

The result is fascinating. It is like listening to a Bach - a great Bach - in which there resonates obscurely, rising up from a deeply buried stratum, the heartbeat of late Beethoven or Schubert.

 

 

Classica-Répertoire

J.S. BACH: The Well-tempered klavier, vol. II

The second book, also performed with great interiority, contemplative and intimate, reaches us in the same way, slightly distanced, like light filtered through the stained glass of a church, but without the very personal style of the pianist ever standing between the music and its composer: he brings to it an indisputable poetic profundity. This calm, unified vision most certainly contributes something new to the discography.

 

Diapason

J.S. BACH: The Well-tempered klavier, vol. II

Book I impressed us with its interiorised vision, its permanent reinvention of pianistic timbre. It is the same quest that drives the second book, where the pianist sets out to vary the angles from one piece to another, as if in search of the appropriate sonority and playing style for each of these preludes and fugues, viewed as pictorial diptychs that should be displayed in a different light each time.

Nicolas Baron

La Tribune de Genève

J.S. BACH: The Well-tempered klavier, vol. II

Andreï Vieru always offers deeply thought-out interpretations that stand the test of time. In the second book of Bach's Well-tempered Clavier, his serene approach works wonders. While conserving unfailing polyphonic clarity, Vieru humanises this music which might easily suffocate under the weight of its own perfection.

 

La Libre Belgique

J.S. BACH: The Well-tempered klavier, vol. II

The CD of the week

The worthy heir to a line of Romanian pianists including such illustrious names as Lipatti and Lupu, Andreï Vieru here rounds off with the second book a complete recording of The Well-tempered Clavier that will stand as a benchmark. It is a marvel to hear the moving blend of humility and interiority that characterises his playing.

N. B.

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