By Karl W. Nehring
Meanwhile, at an entirely different set of space-time coordinates, this is another one of those CDs that caught my eye at the library. I stuck it in the CD player of my car so I could get a sense of it on the drive home (the ELS system in my Acura is surprisingly neutral and revealing for an automotive setup). My initial impressions as I drove along were quite positive, for what I heard was a joyous mix of Bach, tango, ragtime… but everything played with an appropriate blend of discipline and swagger. I was eager to get home so I could hear the music on my big system and dig into the liner notes to find out more about this fellow Sam Post and what he was up to with this unusual but highly entertaining program.
”Post Bach is about using the past as inspiration, about drawing on years of playing and listening to create something new. Growing up, the music of J.S. Bach was my bread and butter. I listened obsessively to the recordings of Glenn Gould and Rosalyn Tureck. Encouraged by my teacher Irena Orlov, I tackled the intimidating five-voice C sharp minor fugue as a young boy, and the entire Well-Tempered Clavier soon after. My own Prelude and Fugue in the same key, written and dedicated to her, completes the album, and all of the original music here comes from the few months that followed her passing in 2018. My love of Bach’s music is with me whenever I compose, but it shines through especially in Post Bach’s original pieces. A few years ago, I found more diverse rhythmic styles—tango, ragtime, swing, pop—working their way into my music with increasing frequency, and their influence in turn changed my approach to the old master. Post Bach might strike you as jazzy, classical, or something in between, but I hope you’ll hear in it not only the similarities between my own pieces and those of my favorite past composer, but also a new style in its own right.”
The program opens with an original by Post titled Tango Toccata, which deftly combines tango rhythms with Bach-like construction and feeling. It is a remarkable piece, sounding not at all like a novelty toss-off, but rather a fully-formed, serious, noteworthy composition. Serious, yes, but at the same time energetic and joyful. Part Piazzolla, part Bach, all Post, a remarkable composition indeed. It is also remarkable that as the program shifts to straight Bach in the ensuing preludes and fugues, there is no grinding of gears; instead, it is more like a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Following the first set of straight Bach, expertly performed and eminently enjoyable, the program shifts back to two compositions by Post, Efficiency (Remix) and Lighthouse. These are again delightfully entertaining compositions, bringing to mind visions of Bach being played in the styles of perhaps Scott Joplin, James P. Johnson, Willie “The Lion” Smith, and yes, Sam Post, but no, never sounding like some sort of throwaway or novelty music, but rather as serious music written with the goal to delight, inspire, and entertain while at the same time paying tribute to Bach and his influence on Western music.
Following these two pieces by Post are more examples of straight Bach from Book 1 of his Well Tempered Clavier. Then once again there is a nearly imperceptible shift from music by Bach to music by Post as the album closes with his Prelude and Fugue in C Sharp Minor, Irena Orlov in Memoriam, which Post wrote to honor the memory of his beloved keyboard mentor. This music sounds remarkably like Bach, but in the final minute of the closing Fugue, you can hear Post slowing down the tempo, lingering, expressing great emotion through a kind of music that is often thought of in these times as essentially mechanical and expressionless. “Not so fast, my friend…”
Not having seen the liner notes, I cannot comment on them, but the sound quality is just fine. For those with an appreciation for the keyboard music of Bach, this album is highly recommendable. For those who have not yet discovered the keyboard music of Bach, or who have not quite been sure where to start, this album would also be highly recommendable. Try it, you might like it!