Several recent recordings of Bach's 'The Art of Fugue' have been issued recently but this new one from Hyperion is an excellent academic exercise with detailed studies provided by the late Dr. Robert Simpson on the validity of a string quartet version, that is generally presented here.
In essence the music moves on a soundly academic viewpoint but there is also much enjoyment to be had in hearing the four stringed instruments battling each other in some of the hardest fugues ever composed. Essentially, the Delmé Quartet's interpretation is second to none with the music unfolding in terrific grandeur and rigorous adherence to Bach's suggested tempi. It is also fascinating to read Dr. Simpson's studies in the booklet notes that analyze each movement in detail and there are also two alternative versions of the final movement, one in Dr. Tovey's completion and the other incomplete as Bach left it.
Hyperion's recording is a shade dryish but clear enough for one to appreciate the amount of hard work that goes into such a complex interpretation. Not a definite recommendation then but a perfect companion to the orchestral version on Opus111 (Alessandrini) and Hans Fagius on the organ (BIS). What is definite, is that this monumental work will continue to thrill musicologists and academics for as long as possible.
Copyright © 2001, Gerald Fenech