"Never has Bach seemed more full of fantasy": Mahan Esfahani releases third Bach disc for Hyperion

2 September 2022

The next disc of Mahan Esfahani’s Bach project with Hyperion was released on the 2nd September 2022, featuring JS Bach’s Italian Concerto and French Overture. It marks the third disc in his Bach recording cycle for Hyperion, following the 2019 release of Bach's Toccatas and 2021 release of the six Partitas in Clavier-Übung I, which were both awarded four- and five-star reviews across major publications.

The disc received early praise from Fiona Maddocks, who writes in her ‘Classical Home Listening’ column in The Guardian: “Esfahani takes wing at top speed with glittering virtuosity. The colours he brings to all the works here make us revel anew in the sonic capabilities of the harpsichord”. Full link here. Further reviews can be found below:

"JS Bach may the great fons et origo of Western art music, but quite a few people are simply allergic to his music. This is understandable... But if they try it, I’d be willing to bet [this disc] would bring them joy, as the performer is Mahan Esfahani, the Iranian-born, American-raised and now Czech-domiciled harpsichordist...The music jumps into vivid relief, an effect magnified hugely by the prismatic variety of rich, jangling colours Esfahani conjures from his custom-made harpsichord. In the performance of Bach’s very early “Capriccio on the Departure of a Beloved Brother” Esfahani adds laugh-out-loud wit and imaginative recreation to the mix. In all these performances are a marvel. Never has Bach seemed less dry and more full of fantasy." - Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph *****

"Mahan Esfahani couldn’t make a routine recital of Bach’s keyboard music if you paid him to … what a great way to end a Bach harpsichord recital … I love that final ‘ping’ as he lifts his hands from the keys. Bach’s Italian Concerto begins the album, leaping into life with irresistible immediacy, bristling with trills and decorations like little fireworks" - BBC Record Review

"Since for Esfahani any performance starts from a position where everything is freshly, indeed forensically reconsidered, Clavier-Übung II offers particularly rich pickings. Bach sets out not only to demonstrate how thoroughly he understands the flagship styles of Italy and France, but also how he can bend them to his own purposes. The interpretive possibilities are catnip to the harpsichordist who proves himself stylishly bilingual … the concluding Presto [of the Italian Concerto] goes off like a rocket trailing scarcely-containable energy—the end thundering like Wanda Landowska on steroids … altogether, a challenge to complacency that can’t be ignored." - Paul Riley, BBC Music Magazine, performance ****, recording ****

"Esfahani isn’t just showing off an instrument. His ornamentation and articulation are inventive and engaging, and will send alert listeners back to the score as the ear tries to tease out exactly what he’s doing. This is edgy, hyper-attentive playing, with rhythmic figures etched with a sharp, swift and precise stylus … the concluding fugue [of BWV992] is the pièce de résistance, turning this supposed leave-taking into a wild declaration of independence such that the recording itself becomes not just a collection of works by Bach but a performer’s manifesto" - Philip Kennicot, Gramophone

Renowned worldwide for his interpretive flair, expressive freedom and meticulous scholarship, Mahan’s interpretations of works by JS Bach have been described as “uniquely captivating”, “a revelation” and a “near miraculous” and “deeply human experience” with his “inquiring musical mind” and “absolute mastery of his instrument”. Recent highlights include the continuation of his Bach cycle at Wigmore Hall, where he received the Wigmore Medal after his recital of JS Bach’s Art of Fugue in July 2022. He returned to Leipzig Bachfest to give a solo recital and also perform as a duo with cellist Pieter Wispelwey.

More information on the disc can be found here.

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