Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier has to be one of the most
searching pieces of writing, both as a compositional exercise
and as one of the most testing of all performance vehicles for
While some are
perfect miniatures, others are profound, soul-searching exercises
which do much to put Bach’s very art into sharp perspective.
This set of the pieces often referred to as the ‘48’ uses
every note of the diatonic scale upon which to construct a
prelude and a linked fugue and this recording, of Book One
– the first complete 24 prelude and fugue cycle – is by the
eminent and revered Bach interpreter Jill Crossland.
amongst us might prefer these pieces performed on a harpsichord,
the approach to the piano is not one of flamboyant Romanticism
but a clear, pure vision of what Bach intended. From the gentle
opening – possibly the most famous of all of these pieces:
the C major prelude – to the impassioned, almost ferocious
A minor prelude, to the fascination of the two-part invention
of the D major with the sheer drama of its associated fugue,
this is a great new interpretation of these seminal works.
Perhaps the most
poignant of these interpretations is the truly heart-felt
B flat minor Prelude, a fine performance which ekes out every
ounce of pathos but builds into a massive, explosive climax.
Then there’s an almost playful performance of the B major
prelude, a bright key anyway, but made that much brighter
by this powerful performance.
These are balanced,
finely worked miniatures and a good introduction to this major
work. There’s not a feeling of being on top of the piano but
rather in a room and set at an appropriate distance. A highly
fitting addition to any collection of piano repertoire but,
perhaps more importantly, a searching look at these major
and scholarly works of Bach.
Glyn Mon Hughes