Post Bach: Preludes, Fugues, and Bach-Inspired New Music (CD review)

Sam Post: Tango Toccata; Bach: Prelude in C Major; Fugue in C Major; Prelude in C Minor; Fugue in C Minor (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1); Post: Efficiency Remix; Lighthouse; Bach: Prelude in C Sharp Minor; Fugue in C Sharp Minor; Prelude in D Major; Fugue in D Major (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1); Post: Prelude in C Sharp Minor, Irena Orlov in Memoriam; Fugue in C Sharp Minor, Irena Orlov in Memoriam. Sam Post, piano. Sunnyside SC1622.

By Karl W. Nehring

A talented young pianist sits at the keyboard, diligently practicing the music of J.S. Bach. From his back lawn, there is a strange noise, and then an unexpected sight. A blue British phone booth mysteriously appears, from which soon emerges a dandily dressed gentleman whose ears perk up as he hears the sound of piano music coming through the open window. The unexpected visitor walks over to the pianist’s back door and starts knocking on it, banging it hard. Startled by the unexpected racket, the pianist stops playing mid-measure and rushes to the door, suddenly frightened to think his neighbor must be having some sort of emergency. Upon opening the door only to find such a strange figure standing before him, the pianist quickly asks, “who are you and what do you want?!” “I’m The Doctor,” replies his visitor in a good-natured voice. “I heard you playing some music by my old friend Johann Bach, which was excellent, by the way, and I’ll be sure to let him know his music is in good hands the next time I see him. In fact, come join me for a quick spell and let’s expand your musical horizons, shall we?” The pianist, with no idea what on earth is going on, but ready for a break from all those hours of practice, follows The Doctor into the phone box, which he soon learns to his surprise is bigger on the inside. The Doctor fiddles with some controls and soon they emerge outside a church. As they enter, they hear organ music, which the pianist quickly realizes is being played by none other than the great J.S. Bach himself. The pianist is overwhelmed, but after a few minutes, the Doctor ushers him back to the phone box and tells him there are a few more musicians he would like the pianist to observe before he takes him back home. They then make brief excursions though space and time to observe the playing of keyboard masters Scott Joplin and James P. Johnson, which the pianist really appreciates, but then The Doctor tells him, “there is one more musician you need to see, but he is the master of a different sort of keyboard. But hey, I’m sure you’ll dig him, as musicians seem to say.” The next thing he knows, the pianist is with the Doctor in a New York nightclub, where on a small stage Astor Piazzolla is wielding his bandoneon as part of a quartet playing tango rhythms. Then back to the phone box, which whisks them back to his backyard, where it suddenly seems to the pianist as though he had never left with his new friend The Doctor on that brief but unforgettable journey through space and time. He thanks The Doctor for the remarkable experience, then waves goodbye as The Doctor steps back into the phone booth. In a few short moments, the strange noises starts again and the phone box fades from view. The pianist takes a few calming deep breaths before heading back into the house and sitting back down at the piano. After staring into space for a minute or two and then wiggling his fingers to loosen them up, he starts playing some Bach, but tries interpreting it in a few different styles based on what he had heard on his strange trip. As he plays in this different way, he smiles, realizing that he is starting to come up with some fresh ideas for a new album...

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.

For reasons that I have never quite figured out, however, my beloved library, and I say that without the slightest hint of irony, seems to have a somewhat random policy in regard including liner notes when they repackage CDs into the protective plastic cases the library employs to protect the discs for display and circulation. Unfortunately, Post Bach was one of those CDs for which the notes were not included, so I had to do some internet sleuthing to discover what Post had to say about his intentions:

”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!

KWN

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Karl Nehring. Good story and fine listening to you.

    ReplyDelete

Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on the Big Jon and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to both its equipment and recordings review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me — point out recordings that they think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, Goldpoint SA4 “passive preamp,” Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura’s hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can’t imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.

Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to classicalcandor@gmail.com

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to classicalcandor@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa