Bach's improvisational spirit

Bach Sonatas (BMG Classics)
Keith Jarrett and Michala Petri

By John Goodin

Most anyone interested in either Keith Jarrett, virtuoso recorder playing, baroque instrumental chamber music or the infinite genius of Johann Sebastian Bach will love this recording. Anyone curious about any of the above categories will find it an ideal introduction.

While a strong case can be made for Bach as the greatest musician in European history, these sonatas are not his masterworks. They are, however, wonderful examples of his composing brilliance. They "work" at both the easy listening, background level and as reflections of Bach's meditative, prayerful essence.

In twenty or thirty years Keith Jarrett may be forgotten (as Bach himself was for over a century) or he may be recognized as one of the greatest of twentieth century musicians. Along with his careers as a jazz group leader, solo improviser on piano, and composer, Jarrett began to perform Baroque and twentieth century "classical" music in the 1980s. While he doesn't "jazz up" the classical pieces, Jarrett brings an improviser's spirit to the music.

This recording with Michala Petri was made at Jarrett's home studio and has the relaxed feeling of music being made among friends. It just happens that these friends are monsters on their instruments. Jarrett, a recorder player himself, must have sat at the harpsichord shaking his head in disbelief at Petri's death-defying flurries of notes on the recorder — executed with what seems like the greatest of ease. There's an almost palpable feeling of delight as these two play with Bach's creations. Jarrett and Petri are a wonderful match, and we are fortunate to have a chance to listen in.