"Simonian exploits the piano's vast expressive range and the potential of its pedals to enhance dynamic and colouristic effects, offsetting a big, concert-hall sound with moments of hushed intimacy."BBC Music Magazine, 21-1-2021
All Around Bach
“Arrangements, paraphrases, copies – in the music world, these are just a few of the terms that designate the same genre, which has probably existed as long as art itself. What is an arrangement?
Is it more or less a copy of the original, or is it an independent work in its own right? How far can the arranger stray from the original? Who is the main author: the composer or the arranger? Even from a legal point of view, this subject is so complex that no clear answer has yet been found.
Throughout his life, Bach often arranged works by other composers and continually rearranged his own. This was something he found natural, and in his day and age it was nothing unusual. In the case of a great number of his works for keyboard, we are not sure whether they were intended for harpsichord, organ, or even clavichord. I have always found this subject of great importance: as a pianist, if one chooses the modern grand as the medium for these pieces, one is performing Bach exclusively in “arrangement” form.
In this context I decided to examine the creative interrelations among works by several composers separated by time and space: from Vivaldi to Busoni, from Bach to Franck and Liszt, in order to conceive a programme for this CD with the figure and the oeuvre of Bach as connecting element:
“All Around Bach”……..(booklet notes by Stepan Simonian)
Critically acclaimed as “one of the great Bach interpreters of his generation”, Stepan Simonian is driven by a yearning to explore and illuminate the multiple facets of the great works of piano repertoire, particularly by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach.
His Silver Medal at the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in 2010, his training within a well-cultured piano school tradition at Moscow Conservatory under Pavel Nersessian, as well as with Oleg Boshniakovich, then with Evgeni Koroliov in Hamburg, all form part of the experiences that have marked his musical taste, his interpretations, and his teaching.
Born in Moscow in 1981, Simonian won First Prize at the 2005 Virginia Waring International Piano
Competition, and Third Prize at the 2008 Jose Iturbi International Piano Competition, both in the US.
In recognition of his achievements in chamber music, he was awarded the prestigious Berenberg Cultural Prize in 2009 in Hamburg, where he has made his home. In 2014 he won Third Prize at the Aram Khachaturian International Piano Competition in Yerevan, Armenia.
Stepan Simonian is invited to perform at some of the most important festivals and concert venues
throughout Europe and the US, He has appeared as a soloist with many national and international
orchestras and conductors. Stepan’s performances have been broadcast on television channels and
major classical stations including ARD, MDR Leipzig, NDR Hamburg, SWR Stuttgart, HR Frankfurt, BR
Munich, Deutschlandradio Kultur, and Radio France.
His début CD, a complete recording of J. S. Bach’s toccatas for keyboard for the GENUIN label, was highly praised by music critics. 2018 the cpo label released Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto and Concert Rhapsody with the Rheinische Philharmonie State Orchestra conducted by Daniel Raiskin. In 2019 the Cologne label CAvi-music published Simonian’s second Bach CD: the Goldberg Variations, recorded in cooperation with NDR.
Since 2009 Stepan Simonian has been a tenured professor at his alma mater, the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg, where he lectures in solo piano performance.
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and hundreds of cantatas. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.
Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest in and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.
Simonian exploits the piano's vast expressive range and the potential of its pedals to enhance dynamic and colouristic effects, offsetting a big, concert-hall sound with moments of hushed intimacy.
BBC Music Magazine, 21-1-2021