, September 2007
Jenő Jandó is now so well known through his plethora of recordings for Naxos that two sentences suffice for his biography in the booklet notes for this CD. I suppose his recordings speak for themselves.
Jandó is a pianistic equivalent of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. If you want anything recorded, he can do it and he will do it with taste and honesty, and without ego. He plays on a modern instrument, but is conscious of Classical and Baroque style and form. His cycle of the Beethoven sonatas is consistently fine and reliably straightforward, and his ongoing Haydn sonata set is as musicianly and good-humoured as any in the catalogue. His credentials as a Bach pianist are also strong. Although I have not heard his set of the 48 or his Goldberg Variations, this CD demonstrates that he clearly has an innate understanding of, and love for, Bach's music.
He starts the Chromatic Fantasia in an almost Gouldian vein, but after the initial flurries, Jandó starts to use his pedal a little and allows himself some fantasy – though not as much as Lise de la Salle does in her fabulous recording on Naïve. The fugue that follows – which Gould famously hated and never recorded – is an understated model of clarity.
The next few pieces are all in A Minor. The first of these is the Aria variata, one of only a few examples of theme-and-variation music that Bach wrote, and a precursor to the later, larger and far more famous Goldberg Variations. The aria on which the piece is based is a simple quadruple metre tune and Jandó plays it with a disarming simplicity that leads naturally into the largo of the first variation that follows and through the remainder of the piece.
The Fantasia and Fugue that follows announces itself unostentatiously. The Fantasia is much more solidly built than the improvisatory Chromatic Fantasia that opens the album and forms a tight unit with the fugue, even though the two movements did not appear together until 1800, long after Bach's death. The Prelude and Fugue that follow bring the A Minor bracket of the programme to a close, and again Jandó's freshness and perfect pacing are most agreeable.
The French Overture is a counterpart to Bach's Italian Concerto: just as in the latter piece he assimilates the melodic hallmarks of the Italian concerto genre, in the French Overture – and later in the French Suites – Bach appropriates the rhythmic devices and dance styles that typified the French music of his time. This piece can seem a bit stolid in the wrong hands, but Jandó manages the balance between courtly hauteur and joie de vivre nicely.
Throughout the programme, Jandó's firm fingers and clear voice-leading lay the music open for comprehension. He uses pedal, staccato and ornamentation in moderation. The recorded sound is close, but always clear and true. Keith Anderson once again provides helpful liner notes. All up, this is an attractive proposition.