David Fray Turns Bach into a Family Affair

Dec 26, 2018

David Fray’s newest album brings him out of the intensely personal world of Bach played alone, and into a universe where he collaborates with other pianists, in Bach’s concertos for two, three, and four pianos.

While all pianists are brought up with a healthy dose of Bach, not all find a place for him in their performing lives. Those that include Bach in their programs tend to have a deep-seated connection to his music that they find impossible to ignore. That’s the case with French pianist David Fray, whose personal connection to Bach is nowhere more sparklingly on display than in his recording of the D Major Partita (paired with music by Pierre Boulez). Now he’s made another recording devoted to Bach, and this time he’s invited along his mentor, pianist and esteemed teacher Jacques Rouvier, along with two other pianist colleagues and the string ensemble of the National Orchestra of the Capitol of Toulouse.

The album begins with the joyous concerto for four keyboards, based on the Vivaldi concerto for four violins that Bach so deeply admired. It isn’t easy to keep the detail in the birdsong that comes from the pianists when the birds are 9-foot Steinways, especially in the miraculous finale. But the energy is palpable, as is Vivaldi’s signature headlong propulsion. (Liner notes by Rémy Stricker dive directly into what seems like an old question now: whether Bach should be played on modern instruments. Bach’s taste for switching out instruments and singers, and the very notion of “transcription,” he says, lead to a resounding yes.)

Also included is the unusual Concerto for 3 Harpsichords in D minor, with keyboard number one leading the charge. There are also three concertos for two keyboards, where Fray takes turns playing with each of his colleagues (Jacques Rouvier, Emmanuel Christien and Audrey Vigoureux) while directing from his piano. 

This video will give you a real feel for the nature of the recording session and the communicative quality of playing that Fray goes for:

For more information and to purchase this recording, visit Warner Classics.