DUO Stephanie & Saar’s third release on New Focus Recordings, The Art of Fugue, is the first ever complete piano duo recording of Johann Sebastian Bach’s enigmatic final work.
Dated 1748, scholars have understood The Art of Fugue as an academic endeavor by an aging master paying tribute to the fugue, which was by then falling out of fashion. Others consider the work as a sort of “Da Vinci Code” of numerology, puzzles and musical coding. The mystery of Contrapunctus 14, notable for both the inclusion of Bach’s name as a theme and for its unfinished state, adds to the work’s mythology and cult status.
Bach found fugues to be a source of endless creativity. The Art of Fugue, a collection of fourteen fugues and four canons, is an exploration of the full spectrum of contrapuntal possibilities, all derived from one monolithic theme in D minor. From a purely technical standpoint, Bach’s compositional prowess is in full display as he employs inversion, retrograde, augmentation, diminution, multiple fugue subjects, mirroring and canonic writing – all while creating an intense and emotionally gripping musical experience.
Beethoven Dialogues, Duo Stephanie and Saar’s second New Focus release following the critically acclaimed Bach Crossings, features three dynamic piano four hands transcriptions from Beethoven’s iconic Op. 18 set of string quartets — #1, 4, and 6.
It is fascinating to hear this timeless music lifted out of its original context and instrumentation and placed onto a keyboard, and reveals much about the core strength and malleability of Beethoven’s writing.
Despite the early date of composition of these works in Beethoven’s career, in these piano versions, one hears many hints of the late piano works and even some foreshadowing of his late quartets.
Bach Crossings, a first release for DUO Stephanie and Saar on New Focus Recordings, is a crossing of paths, crossing of minds and inspirations. The music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the monolith of Western music, is recast and given new light by one of the most creative living composers of our time, György Kurtág.
The name for the CD by DUO was inspired by Olivier Messiaen’s monumental two-piano work “Visions de l’Amen”, performed by DUO in Baltimore and Banff in October of 2006. Amen du désir, the centerpiece of this work, describes love in it’s heavenly and earthly manifestations.
The other works on the CD by Schubert, Debussy, Janáček and Stravinsky are all special sound worlds or “visions”.