“David Fray Plays Bach and Boulez”
Virgin Classics. 2007
$16.98

This CD attempts to create sparks by setting wildly different types of music side-by-side, rather like California fusion cuisine combines flavors from all over the world.

Although the two composers, Johann Sebatian Bach and Pierre Boulez, would both be called “classical” by those not familiar with their different eras, they are separated by centuries and could hardly differ more.

Mr. Fray, a young pianist of demonstrable technical excellence, displays more sympathy for the still-living modernist Boulez than for the long-dead Baroque kapellmeister Bach.

Because of the indisputably high quality of his piano-playing, Mr. Fray’s lack of empathy for Bach can be more easily heard in comparison to that of another keyboard player closer in temper to the master of the fugue. If you listen, for instance, to Mr. Fray’s interpretation of the Gigue from Partita #4 in D major, BWV #828, from this CD, then immediately listen to the same piece played by Trevor Pinnock, the gulf separating the young pianist from the Baroque composer is evident.

On the other hand, praise can be lavished on Mr. Fray’s interpretation of the Boulez pieces, a collection of (mostly) brief flashes and sparks demanding the highest keyboard ability. His technical command of the keyboard receives a strenuous workout but admirably advances to the challenge of the modern music. I was especially taken by Douze Notation Pour Piano IV. Rhythmique.

If you are dipping a toe into classical music, this would be an odd introductory choice. If you are already a Boulez fan, and curious about Bach, then you can enjoy the French modernist layered among not-quite-true Bach that might lead you to look further. If you are a Bach lover, Trevor Pinnock would be a better choice.

[cehwiedel also writes at cehwiedel.com]

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