Abdel Rahman El Bacha Plays Beethoven

A crowning achievement: Abdel Rahman El Bacha records Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas. The internationally acclaimed pianist opted for a C. Bechstein D 282 concert grand for the recordings as it “marries the best of the Bechstein tradition with a distinct power and balance in the sound”.

When Abdel Rahman El Bacha chose a new C. Bechstein D 282 concert grand, he followed in Artur Schnabel’s footsteps, who became the first pianist ever to record Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas between 1932 and 1935 on the Bechstein at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. In an interview with journalist Sylviane Falcinelli, the great pianist stated: “The touch of a Bechstein is not comparable to that of any other grand. […] The action responds directly and still allows you to shape the sound while you’re pressing the key. […] What also particularly fascinates me is the instrument’s broad sound range in all registers. […] This piano of the next generation marries the best of the Bechstein tradition with a distinct power and balance in the sound.”

Recording all thirty-two piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven is a major challenge for any pianist – A challenge that El Bacha has now attempted twice. Whereas the first recording took him around ten years, however, the second only lasted from April 2012 to January 2013. It was performed at La Ferme de Villefavard in the French region of Limousin, on a C. Bechstein D 282 that was entrusted to the legendary concert technician Denijs de Winter. The excellent sound of the recording is also the result of the good acoustics of the studio, a former barn converted by architect Gilles Ebersolt with the aid of acoustician Albert Yaying Xu, whose most famous projects include the Cité de la Musique in Paris, the opera house in Beijing and the Philharmonic Hall in Luxembourg.

In this ground-breaking CD package, Abdel Rahman El Bacha explores the full tonal wealth of the C. Bechstein grand and renders every last detail of the sonatas without forcing the tempos or dynamics. The fact that he recorded two sonatas at a time and, if need be, repeated both pieces integrally instead of simply replacing individual bars or tones, provides the recording with a great deal of homogeneity. El Bacha stated: “I seek to preserve that electric excitement by recording whole sonatas in a single take. This is the challenge that Beethoven puts on his interpreters and I accept it. If you don’t take it up, you lose the musical thread, the very intention of the composer. It’s worth sharing this experience with him.”

Photos: Sylviane Falcinelli

Abdel Rahman El Bacha performs Beethoven sonatas