Classical Music Guide - Tuesday, July 23, 2019 - Written by Donald Isler

Keyboard ConversationsĀ® with Jeffrey Siegel

Bach: Partita No. 5 in G Major, BWV 829
Bach: Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 903
Chopin: Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-Flat Major, Op. 61

A long time friend (60 years!) of IKIF Director Jerome Rose, the pianist Jeffrey Siegel studied with at least three very famous teachers, Rudolf Ganz, Rosina Lhevinne, and Ilona Kabos, and has had a busy career ever since. His Keyboard Conversations, in which he speaks about different works, and then plays them in entirety, are useful to, as he says, "gently inoculate" those who have no musical background with information to help them enjoy the program more. But they also provide interesting details about the music for those who are more "at home" in a concert setting. His ideas are very well thought out, detailed, and expressed. And as a pianist he is very physical, strong, and passionate.

Mr. Siegel said he liked to program music of Bach and Chopin together as they both turned popular dances into great art.

After speaking about, and demonstrating parts of the Bach Partita he began the Prelude with great energy. The Allemande was stately and the Courante vigorous. The Sarabande was not very slow and rather loud. The Tempo di Minuetto was witty, and in the Passepied he focused on bringing out the different voices. The concluding Gigue was gruff, then delicate, and had great trills.

I was amazed to learn that the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue was only published in 1802, many years after Bach's death. Mr. Siegel told a story about Bach's returning home from a trip in 1720 and learning of the death of his first wife. Mr. Siegel speculated that parts of this work may reflect Bach's emotional reaction to her death. But as the exact date of its composition is unknown, one can't be sure if this is true.

He then gave an intense reading of the work. Some of the arpeggiation in the Fantasy was faster than I'd ever heard it, but the first theme of the Fugue, which he described as "coming out of the depths of despair" was played very beautifully.

Turning to the Polonaise Fantaisie, Mr. Siegel spoke of the various sections, ie the introduction, the polonaise rhythm, and the nocturne-like theme. His performance of it afterwards was thoughtful and had both calm and turbulence.

After the performance, he took questions from the audience. It was a very interesting way to spend an hour, and I can see the value in this kind of presentation, especially for those who want to learn more about the composers and their music.

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