Ayaka Isono’s informative approach to listening to Bach
Stephen Smoliar, Classical Music Examiner
...the greatest virtue of this recording is that Isono allows the serious listener to appreciate Bach’s pedagogical intentions without ever allowing her execution to lapse into pedantry. Thus, her performances of the inventions allow one to appreciate the broad diversity of approaches one can take to being inventive, even when each of the fifteen compositions is basically an exploration of imitative exchanges between two voices. On the other hand her approach to execution is deliberately attuned to the capabilities of the modern piano, allowing her to bring attention to Bach’s inventiveness through well-considered (and often subtle) shifts in dynamics. These techniques serve her equally well in her performance of BWV 971, in which Bach captures all the give and take between soloist and ensemble in a Baroque ripieno concerto within the confines of a pair of keyboards with a single performer.
BWV 816, on the other hand, is approached as music for show, where what is being displayed is the scope of execution skills of the performer. Each movement is a binary-form dance in which both the first and second parts are repeated. However, the convention of Bach’s time was that the repeated version was not a mere echo but an opportunity to add embellishments beyond those indicated in the score. Isono took this approach, but there was nothing ad hoc about her added embellishments. Rather, she thought about embellishing the underlying melodic elements and maintaining her embellishing tropes to suit the repeated entries of those elements, making for a highly engaging listening experience.
In a time when there is far from a shortage of Bach recordings, All Bach offers performances that are sure to engage and sustain the attention of the serious listener