"The star of the TACET roster is likely émigré Russian pianist Evgeni Koroliov. His 1990 studio performance of Bach’s fugal testament ranks among the glories of the catalog (it’s György Ligeti’s Desert Island Disc). The twist of focus Bach on the piano usually requires isn’t a factor. Indeed, the instrument can even be favored in such abstract music, as the keyboard sound most familiar to us — what Charles Rosen suggested. (His playing [on Sony SB2K 63231] of course makes a stronger case yet.) Describing why Koroliov astounds isn’t easy. His virtuoso technique seems to vanish inside the music — no curious articulations, dynamics or tempos. The spare pedaling never imitates a harpsichord. Similarly, the recording projects a beautifully focused piano — the whole, not a mass of disembodied details. For The Art of Fugue fanciers: Koroliov inserts the canons along the entire span, rather than doing them as a group; and he plays the great unfinished fugue without supplying his own resolution. In an appendix, he and Ljupka Hadzigeorgieva (his duo partner) deliver two fugues for two keyboards (outtakes of Contrapunctus 13). Anyone who cares about this monumental summa — not as a theoretical exercise, but as a living work — has to have this set."

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