J. S. Bach - Art of Fugue

Bach's The Art of Fugue was the climax of his technical skills and, with his usual combination of musical richness and instrumental knowledge, the composer achieved another masterpiece.

When the modern piano took control, the music changed. Pianist Diana Boyle well understands Bach's sixteen Contrapuncti, which, step-by-step, created The Art of Fugue as music beyond belief, even beyond the reach of the 21st century.

Bach's music, Boyle said in a recent interview, 'is not piano music' and, when she plays Bach, she 'is often thinking of the violin, not least in the variety of articulation which the violin is capable of.'

Of the three [Bach] recordings featured here, Boyle's CD captivates me most. She has made a very good performance and understands the nature of the music, but most of all, she is genuine.

MUSIC AND VISION
George Balcombe
January 2012

Amazon 5-Star Review

I think this is a compelling - absolutely compelling - performance. Like an experienced teacher guiding one to see previously unnoticed ideas and details, or symmetries and asymmetries in a complex piece of architecture, Diana Boyle helps the listener understand intellectually and feel emotionally the intense life within one of Bach's most thoughtful and astringent pieces of writing. And she makes that astringency feel positively rich, with her wide range of (yes - sometimes idiosyncratic, but always revealing) dynamics. The key to understanding this performance, I think, lies in her own words (see cover notes) that she had the violin often in mind whilst performing this work. Bach, after all, never stipulated which instrument he was composing this for. This is musical architecture at its highest: and Ms. Boyle reads it very personally and with profound feeling and sincerity, while at the same time faithfully conserving the music's universal quality. This is not the "definitive performance": heaven preserve that such a thing should exist. But it is one of the most exciting and technically excellent interpretations I know. I am grateful for Ms. Boyle's ability to illuminate the music, and would recommend these discs to anyone wanting to be introduced to a new exploration of the musical cathedrals which Bach created.

Nigel McG (Review on amazon.co.uk)
May 2011

Divine Art

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The Art of Fugue is as much a mystery as it is a work of musical genius.  Given that there is unlikely ever to be a definitive understanding even of Bach's intentions, let alone the way in which it should be approached, it seems reasonable that we should be encouraged it with as open a mind as possible.  Most recent research would tend to indicate that the pieces written for harpsichord but as it so clearly works equally well on any key-board instrument - to say nothing of small instrumental ensembles - any new recording, with the fresh understanding it brings, is bound to be welcome.

Diana Boyle approaches the fugues from an orchestral point of view, finding overtones even of Brahms and Wagner within the score, and this understanding feeds her dynamic reading.  The opening is so quiet I thought there might be something wrong with either the CD or my player.  In the event it was the impressive dynamic range she brings to the work, a dynamic range which could only be achieved on the organ with registration.  As such we are far more aware of the flexibility of the individual musical lines as they are created rather than the movement from one part to another.  There is always room for another recording of this miraculous work and I am glad to have added this to my own collection.

Brian Hick
Musical Opinion March - April 2011

Divine Art

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Ms Boyle stresses the “orchestral” dimensions of the work, thinking of its articulation in terms of violins, trombones, double bass and flute at various times. I would certainly not quarrel with this as an approach and it is good to hear a performance that is above all determined to capture the changing musical character of the work rather than simply to demonstrate the complexity and ingenuity of the fugal writing.

Ms Boyle produces some very beautiful sounds and textures, and her speeds are well chosen. I cannot deny the beauty and character that is given to the music - rather than extracted from it. At the right time and in the right mood you may find this irresistible – I can see it becoming a cult version in some circles.

John Sheppard
MUSICWEB

Divine Art

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Diana Boyle’s recording of Bach’s Art of Fugue is extraordinarily wonderful...also shocking, revelatory. More than anything, I had the feeling of history flowing backwards, as if Bach’s music had been waiting for later musical evolution to reveal its hidden nature. Her playing seems not so much an art of interpretation as a new creation. The tone is bell-like and magnificent. Her colouring and voicing is phenomenal both in conception and execution. Once in a while something comes along that reconnects me with the ‘absolute’ power and value of certain music and the art of bringing it to life, and this was one of them.

Robin Ireland
February 2011

Divine Art

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Purchase from the USA.

Also available through Amazon and all good record shops.