American pianist and teacher Eleonor Bindman is, by her own admission, devoted to the music of J S Bach. She has been praised for her performances and recordings of Bach’s keyboard music and has made a transcription for piano 4-hands of the complete Brandenberg Concertos.
In her ‘Stepping Stones to Bach’, Eleonor presents 24 arrangements of masterpieces by Bach – from the Badinerie from the Suite BWV 1067 to the elegant Largo from the Double Violin Concerto, the chorale prelude “Wachet Auf”, movements from the Brandenberg Concertos and “Erbarme dich, mein Gott” from the St Matthew Passion, and much more besides. Much of Bach’s music is very well-known and many pianists crave the opportunity to play his works for other instruments and voices on the piano.
Given her experience in both playing and transcribing Bach, Eleonor’s arrangements are excellent, retaining a clear sense of the original music while offering early to intermediate pianists the opportunity to play interesting and imaginative stand-alone pieces. The pieces have been simplified and adapted to the modern keyboard, but with all the essentials left intact. Each piece has a short footnote with suggestions for fingering and some stylistic/contextual information.
In addition, the well-chosen works in this collection give the early or intermediate player a splendid introduction to variety and glory of Bach’s music. For many of us, our first introduction to Bach is via the two- and three-part Inventions, which are undoubtedly wonderful, but Eleonor’s collection offers greater insight into Bach’s music and his musical universe, and as such is an excellent introduction, and, hopefully, a jumping off point for further exploration.
The pieces in this collection serve several purposes from the point of view of students and teachers. At mostly early intermediate level, the pieces are an excellent sight-reading resource (clear spacious typesetting makes them easy to read). They can also serve as studies or warm up exercises – try the Prelude from the First Cello Suite for an enjoyable work out and a study in coordination, balance and voicing between the hands. Meanwhile, the Preludio from the Violin Partita No. 3 introduces players to piano music written on a single stave and is a fun challenge in reading and distributing the notes between the hands (and a good deal easier than Rachmaninoff’s wonderful transcription of this piece!). The Largo from the Double Violin Concerto offers scope for elegant legato and expressive playing.
Volume 2 is now available and Eleonor has made a few pieces available for download from her website. She has also created a special ‘Stepping Stones to Bach’ playlist on Spotify and iTunes featuring all of the original music.