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GRAMOPHONE (November / 2017)
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Reviewer: Jed Distler

Pianist Sonya Bach writes in the booklet notes to her recording of Bach’s keyboard concertos that she performs her solo parts ‘with the utmost rigour’. She’s correct; although, in her case, rigour is a two-way street. When it comes to technical rigour, there’s no faulting her focused fingerwork, save for a teensy split note at the outset of the D minor Concerto’s ritornello, first beat of bar 2. She shapes the triplet runs in the finale of the E major Concerto with invigorating drive and direction, while the G minor’s finale emerges as a supple and lilting tarantella. The A major’s outer movements also showcase her ability to convey stylish character and to intelligently scale her dynamics for maximum chamber-like repartee.  

On the other hand, Sonya Bach often blurs the proverbial thin line between rigour and rigidity. Her solo entrance following the D major Concerto’s first movement ritornello seems to shoehorn the notes in, chasing the metronome and not allowing the phrases to truly speak. Compare this to the shapelier bass lines and much more varied articulations in Murray Perahia’s recording with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, or sample Ms Bach’s foursquare and heavy Italian Concerto first movement alongside Gould or Schiff, and you’ll hear for yourself. Her particularly unyielding slow movements operate on uniform expressive levels; you won’t find anything like Angela Hewitt’s vocally informed eloquence in the F minor or D minor works. Nor do the English Chamber Orchestra strings come close to the point, precision and gradations of balance distinguishing the ensembles in the Perahia and Hewitt cycles, which remain first choices for these works on piano.

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