Johann Sebastian Bach and Anton Batagov. Who could ever think until recently that these names would cross? A promising pianist, prize-winner and Tatiana Nikolayeva’s alumni, he refused the anticipated career in his early youth and chose to continue with quite different music. The first performer of minimalist music in this country and a composer with a distinctive style, he resumed his “classical” performances not long ago. However, he refuses to keep a beaten path again.
As a principled antagonist of “authentism,” he plays any music in a poignantly contemporary fashion, sensing the breath of today in it. There might be something that creates an affinity between him and Glenn Gould, but the great Canadian pianist sensation and reading of Bach was totally different. Batagov hears Bach in a different way, drastically changing tempos, articulation and strokes as he repeats.
“Each note, each intonation, each chord of Bach’s music carries the truth next to which all the rest is inessential, therefore it sounds uncompromising and at times even merciless despite its blinding beauty. There is no path to light that wouldn’t run over Calvary,” he assumes.
His religious rendition of Bach’s partitas (he perceives No. 4 as a Christmas mystery, and No. 6 as a reflection of the Holy Passion) only naturally includes an arrangement of the chorale Jesus bleibet meine Freude played by the pianist between two cycles as a connecting link and dramatic core of the recording.
Anton Batagov recorded Bach’s music on the grand piano manufactured by Bösendorfer of Vienna (now a subsidiary of Yamaha) in a room of ZIL Culture Centre, a memorable location in Moscow where the necropolis of Simonov Monastery used to be.
“Batagov exploded the entire structure and texture of partitas, split them into atoms. After a “big bang,” when the dance element disappears completely, a new universe is created in front of us, with Bach as its dome just the same.” (from Radio Russia programme “Baroque Practice”)