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Pianist David Fray opens Abu Dhabi Classics with Bach show

Words by Rob Chilton

The piano mastermind plays concertos 2, 3 and 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach

Supporting Fray are pianists Emmanuel Christien, Audrey Vigoureux, and Jacques Rouvier with 37 members of the Geneva Chamber Orchestra also on stage. Highly-regarded in the music world, the award-winning Fray is renowned for his eccentric playing style. Ahead of his Abu Dhabi concert, the Frenchman spoke to EDGAR about his beloved Bach.

The first time I heard a piece of music by Bach...

I guess that it was a small prelude that I played myself as a child or maybe some pieces for the lute that my father used to play on the guitar.

The best starting point for someone who's new to Bach...

The programme we play in Abu Dhabi is pretty exciting and immediately pleasant to the ears. Especially the four keyboards concerto that Bach transcribed after a piece by Vivaldi. In my opinion, the Saint John Passion and the Saint Matthew Passion - oratorios which set Gospel readings to music - are absolutely two highlights to know.

Fray opens Abu Dhabi Classics on January 28

The most technically difficult Bach piece to play...

All Bach pieces are very difficult, but I find the Well-Tempered Clavier very challenging, they're short pieces with very different moods and atmospheres. The Goldberg Variations is also very technically difficult – it's 80 minutes without intermission, but the trip is fantastic for both the player and the audience.

The Bach piece I listen to most often...

I would say the Four Orchestral Suites (Suite no1 in C major, suite no2 in B minor, suite no3 in D major and suite no4 in D major), as well as the Saint Matthew Passion.

Fray calls Bach "the greatest composer"

The Bach piece that makes me cry...

To be honest, a lot of music by Bach makes me cry. I feel his music is marked by its calm tones that speak to the heart and the soul. The Cantata 'Ich Habe Genug' sung by Lorraine Hunt is very emotional as are the Cello Suites. I have said before that after the piano, the second dearest instrument to me is the cello.

The question I'd like to ask Bach if he were alive today...

I would like to know what he thinks about modern piano and how to use it the best way in order to serve his music. After all, Bach is the beginning and the end of classical music. He is the greatest composer and he laid the foundation for what we now call the classical music genre.

David Fray performs at Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi on January 28, tickets from AED 195

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