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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Well Tempered Clavier, Book 1
Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C major (BWV846) [4:42]; Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C minor (BWV847) [3:17]; Prelude and Fugue No. 3 in C sharp major (BWV848) [3:33]; Prelude and Fugue No. 4 in C sharp minor (BWV 849) [9:13]; Prelude and Fugue No. 5 in D major (BWV 850) [3:27]; Prelude and Fugue No. 6 in D minor (BWV 850) [3:53]; Prelude and Fugue No. 7 in E flat major (BWV 852) [5:33]; Prelude and Fugue No. 8 in E flat minor (BWV 853) [11:05]; Prelude and Fugue No. 9 in E major (BWV 854) [2:42]; Prelude and Fugue No. 10 in E minor (BWV 855) [3:31]; Prelude and Fugue No. 11 in F major (BWV 856) [2:21]; Prelude and Fugue in F minor (BWV 857) [8:20]; Prelude and Fugue No. 13 in F sharp major (BWV 858) [4:01]; Prelude and Fugue No. 14 in F sharp minor (BWV 859) [4:13]; Prelude and Fugue No. 15 in G major (BWV 860) [3:09]; Prelude and Fugue No. 16 in G minor (BWV 861) [5:31]; Prelude and Fugue No. 17 in A flat major (BWV 862) [4:38]; Prelude and Fugue No. 18 in G sharp minor (BWV 863) [5:24]; Prelude and Fugue No. 19 in A major (BWV 864) [3:57]; Prelude and Fugue No. 20 in A minor (BWV 865) [5:43]; Prelude and Fugue No. 21 in B flat major (BWV 866) [2:58]; Prelude and Fugue No. 22 in B flat minor (BWV 867) [7:38]; Prelude and Fugue No. 23 in B major (BWV 868) [3:19]; Prelude and Fugue No. 24 in B minor (BWV 869) [15:17]
Jill Crossland (piano)
rec. West Road Concert Hall, University of Cambridge, 5-6 September 2003.
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD113 [62:12 + 66:44]

Experience Classicsonline

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 keyboard players.

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.

While purists 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





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