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GRAMOPHONE (11/2023)
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 Fryderik Chopin Insttitute

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Reviewer :  Jed Distler

The salient qualities that I praised in Ewa Poblocka’s recording of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 carry over to Book 2. Her approach is pianistically orientated in regard to sonority and inflection, along with more liberal application of the sustain pedal than András Schiff, Angela Hewitt and Glenn Gould ever would allow. First Poblocka’s sound draws you in, quickly followed by her keen polyphonic awareness and her innate musicality.


The pianist’s warm and majestic C major Prelude suggests an organ, in contrast to the upbeat C minor Prelude’s wonderfully varied articulations. The latter gives no hint of the slow and sombre C minor Fugue up ahead. Conversely, Pob?ocka’s curvaceous C sharp major Prelude barely relates to its brisk and straightforward Fugue. She calibrates the C sharp minor Fugue’s balances and dynamics with great care, while her vocally inspired D major Fugue contrasts with way too many declamatory and pompous readings out there in Book 2 land. Also note the E flat Prelude’s lilting textural diversity and the gently flowing E major Fugue. Unlike Piotr Anderszewski, Poblocka doesn’t ornament the F minor Prelude’s repeats but rather alters her voicings and points of emphasis to imaginative effect.


The pianist’s crisp and buoyant G major Fugue compensates for her relatively lacklustre toccata-like Prelude in the same key. However, she navigates the G minor Fugue’s difficult-to-untangle close counterpoint by carefully differentiating the dynamics and sidestepping the usual tendency to accent the subject’s first note as if it were a downbeat. Perhaps the resonant sound occasionally swallows up the final notes of diminuendo phrases as in the A flat Prelude, but the woodwind-like détaché phrasing in the G sharp minor Prelude and Fugue totally comes across. While Poblocka’s nuanced legato makes her slow tempo work in the B flat minor Fugue, here I find the architectural specificity of Anderszewski’s comparably measured reading more dramatically engaging. And sometimes Pob?ocka lets her lyrical instincts cruise on automatic pilot; selections such as the A major Prelude and B major Fugue strum along uneventfully, in contrast to, say, Alexandra Papastefanou’s firmer resolve. Still and all, seasoned authority and genuine love for this music inform Ewa Poblocka’s distinctive Bach pianism.

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