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Rosalyn Tureck plays Bach: The Great Solo Works - Volume 2
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Well Tempered Clavier Book I
Prelude and Fugue in C major BWV 846
Prelude and Fugue in C minor BWV 847
Well Tempered Clavier Book II
Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor BWV 872
Prelude and Fugue in G major BWV 884
English Suite No 3 in G minor BWV 808
Sonata in D minor BWV 964 [Violin Sonata in A minor BWV 1003]
Italian Concerto BWV 971
Rosalyn Tureck (piano)
Recorded [? 1990]
VAI AUDIO VAIA1051 [71.02]


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Admirers of Tureck should note that this material was recorded c.1990 and was previously released on Albany TROY 009. Tureck’s recent death has removed a great Bachian from our midst but reissues such as this and the live recordings that are beginning to emanate from the vaults of broadcasting companies will further her memory. Her reputation has remained obdurately mixed over the years, retaining an ability deftly to divide opinion. The current reissue should continue that process.

This recital was performed before a small and intimate gathering whose occasional applause sometimes greets the end of the works. Sound quality is excellent and all the more so in revealing Tureck’s absolute command of contrapuntal lines. Her tempi are consistently measured and one must acknowledge that throughout these performances one is in the presence of a musician of overwhelming digital and spiritual identification with her material. She plays two sets of Preludes and Fugues from the two Books of The Well Tempered Clavier. The C major Prelude is extremely slow and has a tonal luminosity, and a bell-like legato, that compels admiration whereas the Fugue has a strong control of dynamic variance and of contrapuntal entries and voicings. This is a characteristic of her playing, with the C minor Fugue once again witnessing minutely gauged entry point weight. She brings a humorous clarity to the inversion of the C sharp major – and demonstrates here, I think, that when she stands accused of academicism and didacticism in her Bach playing not nearly enough attention is paid to the wholeness and humanity of her music making.

The English Suite reflects many of the qualities that animate her playing of the selection from the Preludes and Fugues; the articulation, the rise and fall and accenting of the Allemande, the stabbing (but always rounded) attacks in the Courante and her stentorian, almost senatorially measured, Gavotte I. The Sonata is better known in its guise of Violin Sonata in A minor BWV 1003 and it’s germane to hear her variance of dynamics and of touch in the repeated notes of the Allegro as well as the dark sonorities that she cultivates in the Andante. When it comes to the Italian Concerto one mustn’t expect the kind of fleet and mercurial playing of other exponents. This is a performance of clarity and space, with an Andante of due gravity and a Presto finale that abjures aggressive attack- though there’s an ebullient rolled chord at the end.

Tureck recorded all these pieces commercially throughout her career and these recordings have since been augmented by live ones such as this. Acknowledging the controversy surrounding her Bach performances one is nevertheless still compelled by their own taut logic and elevation.

Jonathan Woolf



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