Bach's keyboard piece Italian Concerto (originally title Concerto in the Italian Taste), was published in 1735.
It was conceived as an emulation or adaptation of Italian chamber music to the double-keyboard manual harpsichord. Perhaps its intensely, seductively lyrical aspect reflects the Italian spirit.
As with many other of Bach's (and other composers in the pre-piano era) keyboard compositions, it has been successfully adapted to the modern piano repertoire, and is a concert favorite.
I came late to it, however. I had known and played some parts of the Well-Tempered Clavier, as well as the Little Preludes and Fugues. (Don't get me wrong; I've never been more than a fascinated amateur!)
I had heard parts of it over the years, perhaps on the radio, but until last week I hadn't heard the whole three-piece composition.
As it happened, my first hearing was by Andras Schiff, a world-class classical concert pianist, with Hungarian roots. Schiff plays the full range of the classical canon, from Bach and Scarlatti to Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, etc. His Bach has been a specialty. The YouTube version of his recording is here.
For comparison, I also listened to Glenn Gould's version, here.
Schiff's interpretation has all of the precision and discrete voicings one wants of Bach's intricate interlacings, and captures the joy and intellectual vigor as well. His mastery of technique releases the listener from all apprehensions of uncertainty, and frees one to fly into the empyrean.
Gould's version, in contrast, is typical of his approach, with a mathematical tempo and a slightly dogmatic approach, often emphasizing the harmonic accompaniment over the melodic line. This is an important aspect seldom brought out by typical interpreters, but it can become predictable and slightly overbearing, especially with composers other than Bach, who was clearly the genius at it. It can in Gould's hands, be made to seem as if the right hand is fluttering mindlessly above the main theme. And, of course, we have his usual humming in the background. (I suppose, with modern sound technology, this humming could be removed, though I doubt anyone would think it worth the effort.)
Schiff has had a conflicted relationship with his native Hungary, specifically because of anti-Roma (Gypsy), anti-Semiticism, and homophobia, and this has led to his being persona non grata in that country.
Art can transcend political, ethnic, racial and cultural barriers, but occasionally artists must choose, or go into exile, in order to endure.
Schiff is a gift to humanity.