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Following the warm welcome for his debut CD of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Nick Van Bloss has turned back to Bach for this new recording, bringing with him the English Chamber Orchestra (ECO). The pianist has had a long and problematic climb towards prominence, gaining some public notice through a BBC Horizon documentary about creativity and the brain (he has Tourette’s syndrome). But there is more – much more – to Van Bloss than his intriguing backstory. This disc has much to recommend it, most of all the impression of genuine heart at its centre.

Van Bloss’s pianism is careful, straightforward and attentive at all times – if there’s something missing here it’s perhaps a sense of freedom, variety and wit. But there’s a deep emotional response at work. Try the Adagio of the D major Concerto, which is better known in its E major version for violin; here, the piano spins long, expressive lines worthy of any string instrument. The string players themselves use modern instruments, suitable enough to work with a piano, and their light, precise and sympathetic performance is a good complement to Van Bloss’s thoughtful interpretations.

The piano is miked rather closely, though, and sounds a bit too ‘forward’, while the bright and breezy ECO are somewhat confined to the background, despite the able baton of David Parry. It would be perhaps more idiomatic for Bach concertos if the orchestra and piano could emerge as part of the same fabric rather than exaggeratedly as soloist and accompanist. And the pianist can at times be heard humming along. He’s not the first fine Bach player to do that, of course.

JESSICA DUCHEN Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing