Diana Boyle … plays JS Bach


This album of gentle piano music has a definite meditative quality to it.

This is probably because of how Boyle prepares for one of her (reportedly infrequent) recordings, which involves going away to the top of a hill and thinking for years.

The sleeve notes say she has been doing this for 25 years; she thinks about the music she is playing “with concentration and in privacy”, and moved from London to a quiet hilltop in the south of Portugal, “where the quality of light, astonishing sunsets and silence” give her time to think in peace.

She also produced this album and makes all editorial decisions and score-marking, according to the sleeve notes, so after the thinking is done, she knows exactly what it is she wants to do.

The end result is something akin to Glen Gould’s Goldberg Variations, where the silence is as important as the notes.

The piano was only invented during Bach’s lifetime, so he played the clavichord and harpsichord, preferring the former for its more delicate and subtle sound, and the changes in dynamic and tone it could provide. Boyle has gone for the delicacy, and the music is calm throughout.

The Overture in the French Style was the last to be composed, published as Clavier-Übung II in 1735. The work consists of an introductory piece, followed by a sequence of shorter dance movements. If you wanted a criticism, you could say the dance aspect was lost in Boyle’s zen-like rendition, although we don’t know the original piece to compare.

Elsewhere are the “inventions”, short pieces Bach wrote for one of his sons, Wilhelm Friedmann Bach, presented here as a selection of nine (of 15) sinfonias, intended as teaching material for “lovers of the keyboard, especially those who are keen to learn”. Keen to learn more, we can only assume he meant, as they’re not simple.

The titles and dates of the pieces are irrelevant, as it’s the overall sound that’s important.

The music of Bach played by a top pianist who has spent years thinking about how to play — if you want calm and measured music, there’s not much could beat this.

Out now on Divine Art, DDA25190.


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