Charles Petzold

ECM and Bach: Coincidence or Trend?

August 26, 2006
Roscoe, NY

I was educated as a scientist, so I'm supposed to exercise extreme caution when analyzing data to discern trends. The process of induction is philosophically suspect enough without seeing patterns where they just don't exist. The problem is compounded because evolution has made us humans adept at detecting patterns even in randomness.

But when I examine the recent Bach releases of ECM — that always-interesting European record label founded by Manfred Eicher — I can't help but get excited. Consider the evidence:

In 2003, ECM releases Bach's Goldberg Variations played by Hungarian pianist AndrĂ¡s Schiff, whose phrasing and accents make it seem like you're hearing the Goldberg Variations for the very first time.

In 2004, ECM releases Austrian pianist Till Fellner's recording of Book One of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, played with a softness and sensitivity unexpected of a pianist so young. (He's in his early 30's.) I'm not sure I entirely approve of Fellner's approach, but I can't stop listening to it.

In 2005, ECM releases Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer's scorching rendition of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo. Not recommended for children or people with heart conditions!

Three great Bach recordings in three years. So isn't it natural to expect ECM to release another spectacular Bach recording in 2006?

Isn't it?