, July 2011
A fresh, personal approach to Johann Sebastian Bach’s keyboard standards, unencumbered by the dominant examples of the last 50 years, isn’t easy to achieve, but check out this release by pianist Miku Nishimoto-Neubert. In the subjective, stretched-out Sarabande of the Partita No. 6 in E minor, BWV 830, there are traces of Glenn Gould. In the overall approach, forcing expression out through strict passagework by means of small tempo variations, you can hear Murray Perahia. But the personality is Nishimoto-Neubert’s own. She avoids a lyrical attitude, moving between capricious high spirits and a meditative inwardness. Nishimoto-Neubert likes to structure a phrase so that it leads up to the figuration at the end, which is taken at top speed and generates momentum. But then the music may seem to lose its iron energy and go in a new direction. The slow dance movements of the Partita No. 6 and of the French Suite No. 5 in G major, BWV 816, are introspective without being particularly Romantic; Nishimoto-Neubert applies pedal mostly as a special effect, and each note in her melodic lines is distinct and perfectly articulated. The clarity of the outer movements in the Italian Concerto in F major, BWV 971, is impressive. The music, here and elsewhere, lacks a certain Bachian warmth that average listeners may expect, and sampling Nishimoto-Neubert’s just slightly idiosyncratic readings is recommended. But superb sound from an auditorium at Munich’s Hochschule für Musik und Theater is an attraction in itself, and this release shows there’s plenty of life left in the mainstream piano performance of Bach’s music.