The seemingly endless march of Die Kunst der Fuges, like the similarly endless march of Well-Tempered Claviers and Beethoven sonata cycles, continues apace with this release from Divine Art, which is in turn a redistribution of a disc originally issued as Elective Solitude (no disc number) in 2009. Unlike harpsichordist Fabio Bonizzoni, whose performance on Glossa 31510 is my personal choice, Boyle chooses much slower tempos (Bonizzoni’s performance fits onto one CD and is only 63:32 long) and omits all of the four canons. Apparently, the inclusion of the canons is considered optional, since Bonizzoni only includes two of them.
Whereas Bonizzoni dances through the music with an Italianate lilt, Boyle, a pupil of Artur Balsam, plays them in a slow, lyrical manner closer in feeling to the French Impressionists. Indeed, she even refers to one of the melodies in Contrapunctus 7 as a reminder of “a flute playing Debussy” (although other moments remind her of Brahms or even Wagner). The recording was apparently made in a room with a lot of reverberant space, so although the microphone placement is fairly close the sound of Boyle’s piano is warm and just a shade indistinct, which suits her genial, relaxed approach. She uses quite a bit of dynamic changes but only a little and quite judicious pedal. Overall, her performances have a relaxing, hypnotic, almost Zen feeling about them, much like the late Rosalyn Tureck’s recordings of Bach.
I find myself completely engrossed in Boyle’s playing. While I still prefer Bonizzoni, despite the fact that he resolves the final unfinished fugue whereas Boyle breaks it off as written, this is certainly an acceptable and even likeable approach to the music. Your decision to acquire it will depend on your own proclivities.