Cathedral Bach before Bed

Spread over four evenings, John Bryden's consummate performance of the Well-Tempered Clavier's second book is the perfect way to unwind after a frantic day at the Fringe.

Up until relatively recently, the Well-Tempered Clavier was predominantly known as a technical work and not without reason. Bach took all twenty four notes in the well-tempered scale and composed a prelude and fugue for each of them, repeating the process twenty years later.

That is not to say that Bryden failed on the emotive count. It is simply that the extraordinary technical span of the music - ranging from simple arpeggiated preludes to complex double fugues - makes it impossible not to appreciate the scholarly undertone of the works. It's not for nothing that Bach himself declared that the pieces were intended for 'musical youths desirous of learning.'

Having said that, Bryden's skill as a pianist bestowed even the most demanding pieces with an understated elegance that one couldn't fail to be moved by. Wisely, considering he was performing so many fugues, Bryden plumped for crispness of sound in his playing, but still managed to include dynamics where appropriate. The resulting interpretation managed to retain the Baroque essentials of Bach's music while still making the most of the Steinway's famed depth of sound.

If you're at all a fan of Bach or keyboard music generally, then, you should find time to hear Bryden play. Even if the idea of listening to music intended for those 'desirous of learning' sounds a bit much so late at night, just go along to take in the lovely atmosphere of St Mary's Cathedral and sip the complimentary hot chocolate.

Reviews by Andrea Valentino

Performances

The Blurb

Following last year’s successful Before Breakfast series, John Bryden returns to the Cathedral’s Steinway for the complete Book II of J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier spread over four nights. Luxuriate in Bach’s sublime harmonies. Hot chocolate beforehand.