Should we say that beauty is something relative or subjective? On the principle, I agree that the human being is generally dictated by charm and seduction towards anything. This is how we feel and our perception acts, defining what deserves to be appreciated or not. Yet when you listen to this wonderful collection The Koroliov Series Vol 23 Johann Sebastian Bach - Partitas Pt 1, I am sure that everyone would find beauty in it, whether or not one is familiar with this kind of musical experience. Can we then say that beauty in its purest state, the one that is philosophically and psychologically intact no matter who the individual is? This example leads us to meditate on this subject, as if universality really exists, that in fact all this is beyond us. Finally, when we think about it, there was no better genius than an absolute genius like Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the greatest composer and organist musicians of all times, to understand how much beauty was flowing from his mind and dripping from his hands. That was centuries ago, once upon a time, yet his legacy worthy of one of history's greatest treasures continues to strike us anew, like something immortal. We, mere mortals that we are. Of course, I am speaking here of one of the great exceptions of this world, Bach, with his uncommon intelligence and sensitivity, is one of the most outstanding performers of the Baroque and Chamber Music period, almost 300 years ago now. It is also said that the golden age of Baroque Music ended with the death of the Germanic composer. In spite of this, there are still famous musicians and conductors who have been paying tribute to him for 300 years through numerous readaptations. Until the day of 2021, when the prodigious Russian pianist Evgeni Koroliov delivered yet another sumptuous work in his honor.
A graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, the pianist and professor Evgeni Koroliov has devoted most of his work to the re-adaptation of Bach's repertoire, as well as to some other great composers such as Mozart, Chopin or Hendel for example. Moreover, this admiration for Johann Sebastian Bach is so deep and sincere that he has made his best albums and readaptations by going through his work. There are of course the emblematic albums Die Kunst der Fuge in 1990, Goldberg Variations BWV 988 in 1999 or The Well-Tempered Clavier I BWV 846-869 released the following year, to name only these main achievements and masterpieces. It is fascinating how this obsession with Bach has remained intact despite the decades. Great minds and lovers of classical music will tell me that Bach was such a genius, with unprecedented virtuosity and an ability to make emotions feel, which explains how easy it is to see only him. The timeless essence. It is certain that Evgeni Koroliov will be marked for life, like all listeners who listen to Bach once in their lives, even if it is well and truly in the corner of their minds. It is so striking that Koroliov delivered to us a few days ago, 21 years after his first official work on Bach, one of the most striking rehabilitation albums of his discography.
"The Koroliov Series Vol 23 Johann Sebastian Bach - Partitas Pt 1" therefore consists of 3 parts, known under the repertory numbers BMV 830, 825 and 826, which extends over 81 munites of pure happiness. Unless I'm mistaken, this is the first time he has tackled his scores, always trying to go through his repertoire little by little according to where his heart leads him. Koroliov was not content to display a logical sequence in the construction of his album, he first opted for Partita No. 6 in E minor (BMV 830), composed in 1730, as if his reflection on Bach's compositions had pushed him to take BMV 830 as the necessary introduction to start his collection. If we take for example, the work done by pianist and conductor Gustav Leonhardt, recorded in 1986 and published 10 years later, "6 Partitas BWV 825-830", recognized as the most significant contemporary adaptation on album of his famous repertoire, the Dutchman chose to interpret in order the 6 compositions, perfectly retracing the complete work of "Partitas for keyboard", performed on harpsichord. Koroliov's approach departs halfway from what Bach had originally planned, i.e. that the keys are ascending and descending, whereas on this new readjustment, Koroliov preferred to start with the E Minor, as a kind of homage to Bach's choice to start with the B Major, by simple choice that Bach had chosen the B for the first letter of his name, whereas Korolivov chose the E for the first letter of his first name. Conversely, the rest of the repertoire follows the same logic as initially, going up (from B Major to C Minor). I don't know if Korolivov is inspired by the "top-down" structure that Glenn Gloud had done on "Concerto in F major ("Italian"); Partita No. 1 in B-flat major; Partita No. 2 in C minor", performed in 1959 and released in 1960, which also remains one of the "popular" partial collections of this repertoire. One thing is sure, I took absolute pleasure in listening to "Partita No. 1 in B flat major", composed in 1726, which remains for me my favorite part of this collection. Not only is it the most lively part, where virtuosity and emotions intertwine to create something that for the space of a moment when I listen to it, I feel cut off from the real world, as if my mind were stuck in an impermeable bubble. "Partita No. 2 in C minor" (BWV 826) is probably the most complex part to understand, because of its technique and freedom of structure, I even think it is necessary, unlike "Partita No. 1 in B flat major" which is "easier to access" to have a musical ear that only pianists and experts can fully understand. To conclude, "The Koroliov Series Vol 23 Johann Sebastian Bach - Partitas Pt 1" is one of the surprises of this beginning of the year, played entirely on the piano and in a prodigious way, Koroliov is surely one of the contemporary classical artists who understands and transcribes Bach's work best. Koroliov is in a way the best placed to take in all the beauty, to deliver a divine interpretation of it. We can only bow to the fact that this contemporary partial rehabilitation of "Partitas for keyboard" is surely one of the most praiseworthy to date.