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Bach Crossings

by DUO Stephanie & Saar

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Bach Crossings, a first release for DUO Stephanie & 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. DUO Stephanie & Saar, the collaboration of pianists Stephanie Kai-Win Ho and Saar Ahuvia, have been acclaimed for their versatility and intellectual curiosity. Since teaming up at Baltimore’s Peabody Institute, the couple has been exploring the wide and often unconventional duo repertoire, with music ranging from Machaut to Messiaen, from Mozart to George Crumb and Bill Evans.

Bach Crossings is born out of a desire for exploration. Stephanie notes in the British publication International Piano Magazine, “The most amazing thing about the Kurtág transcriptions is that they are from Bach’s cantatas [and organ works], which most solo pianists don’t know that well. We feel that Bach’s solo keyboard works are very different from his choral works… [they] are pedagogical and virtuosic. Kurtág’s transcriptions are very spiritual; you get a sense of that seriousness and darkness and a whole new kind of Bach, very enlightened, a kind of Man of God you don’t hear in the preludes and fugues, which are so technique-driven, so hard to play.”

The title of the album also alludes to the difficult hand crossings that Kurtág requires the performers to implement in his four hand transcriptions, as demonstrated on track one, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit from Cantata BWV 106, where the melody is played entirely with the arms crossed. The whimsical configuration of hand crossings in Gott, durch deine Güte, BWV 600 is visualized in the cover photo of the album. Of the fourteen Bach transcriptions represented here, three are by other important Bach transcribers: Franz Xaver Gleichauf and Max Reger, who represent a crossing of various approaches to Bach transcribing over the last two centuries. Two delightful “encores”, correntes by Girolamo Frescobaldi transcribed by Kurtág, pay homage to one of Bach’s sources of inspiration.

"These well-matched artists found considerable expressive depth in Kurtág’s version of the Sonatina…The rapport between Ho and Ahuvia was readily apparent throughout their portion of the program; their music- making placed added value on elegance and subtlety” – The Baltimore Sun

“The duo gave beautifully understated performances” – The New York Times

Transcriptions of works of J.S. Bach for piano four hands by Gyorgy Kurtag, F.X. Gleichauf, and Max Reger.


released March 1, 2012

Recorded at Oktaven Audio, Yonkers, New York
November 6 and 21, 2011

Produced by DUO Stephanie and Saar and Ryan Streber

Hamburg Steinway D provided by Arlan Harris

Photo and design by Masataka Suemitsu




New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

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