Feinberg/Russian Disc, Fellner/Erato, Fischer/Naxos, Gould/Sony,
Gulda/Philips, Richter/RCA, Schepkin/Ongaku, Tureck/DG and
and exquisite pianism grace the new set of Bach's complete Well-Tempered
Clavier played by Evelyne Crochet. Although relatively
obscure, this native of France has been performing in concert
and on records since the early 1960s. Crochet's repertoire
covers a wide spectrum from Baroque to 20th century music,
and she has championed the piano music of Fauré and Satie;
her 1960s set for Vox of the complete Fauré piano works remains
a landmark of the composer's discography. Crochet currently
lives and teaches privately in New York City.
to Crochet's Fauré recordings in addition to her Well-Tempered
Clavier, I have to say that she was born to play the piano.
In her Bach set, the chords are perfectly formed, rhythms are
gracious, and she is fantastic at floating a note. Every aspect
of the performance is beautiful as Crochet presents a natural
progression of each prelude and fugue.
There are a few
features that other Bach pianists convey that Crochet chooses
not to involve herself in. There isn't any strong Gould-like
propulsion, contours are not sharp, the bleak terrains offered
by Tureck are rather mild in Crochet's hands, and the majesty
and power so prevalent in Richter's performances are only in
the moderate level from Crochet. I find the most significant
failing to be Crochet's reluctance to vary tempo and pacing
within each piece of music; you definitely won't find in her
interpretations any use of hesitations or the staggering of
Yet, I love her
Book II where she uses her unsentimental legato to wonderful
effect in Bach's chromatic music. With Crochet, I hear "rays
of light" from the chromatic architecture that I've never
heard from any other version of Book II. There's no doubt in
my mind that her strength is legato playing with a relatively
light touch. Also, her terracing of rhythmic lines and supple
phrasing take a backseat to no other recording of the work.
Book I is not as
successful. Here, Crochet engages in more variety of touch
and articulation. In most cases, this would be all to the good.
But Crochet is not very effective playing notes in a detached
manner. I should report that the reviewer for American Record
Guide found Crochet more compelling in Book I for her greater
variety of articulation. Again, I have to say that this variety
takes Crochet out of her comfort zone.
Is Crochet too
limiting? Not really. She can "power-up" and sharpen
her contours when necessary such as in the C minor Prelude
and E minor Fugue from Book I as well as the D minor Prelude
and the A minor Fugue from Book II. However, the performances
take off into transcendent realms when her legato intersects
with Bach's dense chromatic structures. As for the sonics,
they are on the rich side but with sufficient clarity and definition.
I treasure this
set for Crochet's uplifting performance of Book II and consider
it one of the best on record; Book I is merely very good. Overall,
this 4-CD set is excellent and not far behind the exceptional
piano versions listed in the heading.
Whether or not
you acquire the Crochet set, you owe it to yourself to become
intimate with perhaps the most magnificent body of keyboard
music ever composed. What we have here is a virtual compendium
of style and architecture known in Bach's time as well as the
widest array of emotional content I've heard from any keyboard
music. Add in heavenly melodies and emotional depth that speaks
from the abyss, and the result is hours of reveling in 48 prelude/fugue
combinations (96 pieces of music) that stay with you for days
on end. Evelyne Crochet is a breathtaking guide in Book II,
and that's sufficient to warrant the price of admission. Further,
readers who love their Bach played in legato fashion should
consider Crochet a mandatory item for their Bach library.
(USA sales only)