Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


WGBH Radio WGBH Radio

Fugue State / Alan Feinberg

Release Date: 07/10/2015
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30034 Spars Code: DDD
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach ,  Alessandro Scarlatti ,  Dietrich Buxtehude ,  George Frideric Handel  ...  Performer:  Alan Feinberg Number of Discs: 1
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins.

Fugue State features music of two generations of composers from the era of the High Baroque. While the composers each have unique and intriguingly personal styles, they share a compelling range of compositional techniques and musical ideas. They influenced each other in ways rarely presented in the piano world. This recording features some of the links and musical cross-pollination of these composers. And while fugues are generally not designed to surrender their secrets easily, there are many connections to be enjoyed by the avid listener. – Alan Feinberg

"A champion of contemporary music, this American pianist has won acclaim for adventurous programs pairing old and new works. This recording is an adventure of another
Read more kind. He plays 14 fugues by composers from two generations of the high Baroque... Surprising cross-generational similarities come through between the masterly Bach fugues and and the intricate earlier ones of Froberger and Buxtehude. Heard in this context, Handel's ingenious fugues sound wonderfully clearheaded and uncluttered... The playing throughout has elegance, color and clarity. These diverse fugues come across like character pieces, which is, as Mr. Feinberg writes in his liner notes, the way he thinks of them."

-- Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

The fugue is one of the stranger and more contradictory developments to come down the music-historical pike, an elaborately rule-bound form that still leaves plenty of room for individuality. That combination of strict constraints and expressive leeway is one of the great delights in pianist Alan Feinberg’s eloquent tour through nearly a century and a half worth of Baroque keyboard fugues. They range from the stately grandeur of a fugue by Alessandro Scarlatti to the skittish playfulness of his son Domenico, and from the dark, probing writing of Johann Jacob Froberger to the more exuberant, even theatrical, creations of Handel and Buxtehude. And of course there is J.S. Bach, reigning over the entire landscape with his infuriatingly limitless mastery of this intricate musical world. Feinberg’s performances use the modern grand piano with delicacy and inventiveness, responding to the characteristics of each fugue with apt adjustments of color, shading and touch.

-- Joshua Kosman, San Francisco chronicle

Pianist Alan Feinberg recorded expressionistic versions of John Bull's unconventional English Renaissance keyboard piece several years before releasing this utterly, by modern standards, iconoclastic collection of fugues by various composers of the 17th and 18th centuries. Unashamedly pianistic, these readings rely on the idea that, in Feinberg's words, "each fugue can be thought of as a character piece, each with its own personality, scope, level of complexity, and affect." There is little or no support for this view in the Baroque literature, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing: Feinberg puts it across. The program concludes chronologically with Bach and Handel, who surely do exhibit contrasting interior and exterior characteristics even in fugues. The program is filled out with works by Bach's model Buxtehude, whose opposite number is the more brilliant Froberger, and there are some little-known keyboard fugues by both Domenico and Alessandro Scarlatti. Feinberg's recital will not win any awards for historical accuracy, but nobody has done anything like it before, and it's highly listenable. Excellent sound from Virginia's Sono Luminus studio, emerging as a leading U.S. studio venue for high-end audio, is a major attraction.

-- James Manheim, All Music Guide

"I think that it’s fair to say that my Stereophile magazine review of Alan Feinberg's Basically Bull was a total rave. I wrapped up by assuring: 'Even if the last solo-piano recording you really enjoyed was George Winston’s December, I think you’ll love Basically Bull. Highly recommended.' So now we have Feinberg’s follow-up, Fugue State.

Fugue State is a carefully selected program of fugues from two centuries of the High Baroque. Chronologically, the composers range from Froberger (b. 1616) through Buxtehude (b. 1637) and Alessandro Scarlatti (b. 1660), to J.S. Bach, Domenico Scarlatti, and Handel; all of whom were born in the year 1685.

However, Fugue State’s program is not chronological. It begins and ends with the sprawling three- and six-part “ricercars” that begin and end Bach’s The Musical Offering (BWV 1079). “Ricercar” is a formal term that encompasses several compositional techniques predating the fugue; but the form continued as a special case of fugues. ( The Musical Offering is one of the few Bach masterpieces that I think are fair to call “under-appreciated.”) Other pieces from Bach and from the other composers make up Fugue State’s generous playing time of 64 minutes.

Along the way, there is enough variation in tempo, mood, voicing, and ornament that there is never a risk that the listener will feel trapped in a clothing factory full of sewing machines that are running at full tilt. While it is true that “fugue state” is an out-of-date mental-health diagnostic term, there is no craziness in this program. The Baroque era was the height, and the end-game, of Christian Rationalism. Bach wrote music along disciplined rational lines, to justify God’s ways to man. And by the time of Bach’s death (1750), that was already out of fashion...

As for the recorded sound, it is a little different from that of Basically Bull; slightly more distant and reverberant. But that I ascribe to the differing demands of the music, and I think that the recorded sound in its own way is as excellent.

Highly recommended."

-- The Tannhäuser Gate

Read less