This is a musical family affair,” says David Fray of this collection of Bach’s concertos for two, three and four keyboards. The ‘family’ connection is that Fray, like Audrey Vigoureux and Emmanuel Christien, is a former pupil of Jacques Rouvier, celebrated both as a soloist and as a teacher at the Paris Conservatoire. All four pianists participate and collaborate on this album, which contains Bach’s entire canon of concertos for multiple keyboard soloists, with the exception of the Triple Concerto in C major.
David Fray’s Erato catalogue already includes a number of solo works and concertos by Bach, and Jacques Rouvier joined him for duets on his Schubert album Fantasie. Discussing his Bach, BBC Music Magazine wrote: “Fray’s touch is exactly nuanced, its technical control aristocratically poised, producing sonorities of irresistibly pellucid light and shade. And his rhythmic vitality is acute.” Fray himself has spoken of Bach as “a pinnacle; both a beginning and an end”.
This recording – made in Toulouse’s beautiful and resonant Carmelite Chapel, built in the 18th century – has its origins in a concert that the four pianists gave in Montpellier in 2013, but here the string ensemble comes from the Orchestre national du Capitole de Toulouse.
“These concertos are a joy for both the players and the listener,” says David Fray. “They take their lead from the dance, and there is an Italian quality in their flexibility of line.” During his time in Weimar, Bach became fascinated by Italian string concertos and the Concerto for Four Keyboards is an adaptation of a concerto for four violins from Vivaldi’s famous collection L’estro armonico.
“These concertos have an exceptional impact, energy and ‘bounce’ that can be hard to capture on the modern piano,” continues Fray. “The challenge is to take all the fat out of the sound – especially when you have several pianos playing together – and to capture that dancing Italian spirit with the help of lively articulation and an understanding of the polyphony.”
Speaking of the Concerto for Four Keyboards, he says: “It is vital to achieve the right balance and to create a single sound, not four separate sounds. As pupils of Jacques Rouvier, we were always encouraged to have a distinct personality, but here, while retaining our individuality, we must find a zone where we can all come together … Four sounds that make sense as one sound.
“This album is not about looking to create ‘something new’. As a musician, you carry your vision with you, and with your sound you seek to generate momentum and movement. It’s for the audience to decide if you have produced something new and interesting.”
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