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J.S. Bach: Well Tempered Clavier Books I & II / Andras Schiff, piano

Album Summary

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : The Well-Tempered Clavier (48), collection of preludes & fugues in 2 Books, BWV 846-893 (BC L80-127)
Performer Composer

Notes & Reviews:

As a young pianist, Andras Schiff earned wide esteem for his 1980s recordings of the major keyboard works of J.S. Bach; in recent years, as part of his long-term relationship with ECM, he has gone back to Bach as a sage veteran, earning more acclaim for his New Series recordings of the Goldberg Variations (2001) and the six Partitias (2007). The New York Times said, Mr. Schiff is, in Bach, a phenomenon. He doesn't so much perform it as emit, breathe it. In August 2011, Schiff turned his focus to the 48 preludes and fugues of The Well-Tempered Clavier, making studio recording of both books in the Auditorium Radiosvizzera Italiana, Lugano. An iconic inspiration for composers from Mozart and Beethoven to Chopin and Brahms and beyond, The Well-Tempered Clavier has long been considered the Old Testament of the keyboard literature (with Beethoven's piano sonatas as the New Testament). In his liner notes to this four-CD set, Paul Griffiths underscores the suitability of Bach's timeless keyboard work for the modern piano: Bach's inquiry into so many nuances, of touch, of interplay between hands and between contrapuntal lines , of character and of expressivity, has helped form keyboard technique as we know it, and his music belongs to the instrument of Beethoven, of Chopin, of Debussy, of Kurtag - especially when that instrument is played with the mastery and sensitivity of Schiff in these performances... Noteworthy is his floated melody and his rhythmic sense - his, realization that so much of Bach's music is song or dance. Grandur and intimacy are also here. Wit, too.

The Guardian, 20th September 2012
The clean, limpid textures of these performances are one of their most striking characteristics. Another is the sense of rightness about almost every tempo that Schiff adopts; nothing seems hurried or laboured...the playing is so immaculate and projects such authority that it seems churlish to want it step out of its carefully thought-out character.

Sunday Times, 21st October 2012
He makes sparing use of the sustain pedal, advocating its use "intelligently and discreetly", and comparing the effect to a string player's use of vibrato...Schiff looks backwards to the more emotional Bach of old-school pianists, while acknowledging the stylistic input of harpsichordists, but his playing has joy and brilliance, as well as depth.

BBC Music Magazine, December 2012
More like an than a rejection of his youthful preoccupations...Schiff's Bach sings and dances, and has a clarity derived from a mesmerising touch and an aversion to the sustain pedal. The crucial organic relationship he establishes between prelude and fugue, meanwhile, remains unimpeachable...Schiff's new set doesn't replace the old; it complements it.

Gramophone Magazine, November 2012
His new Well-Tempered Clavier reveals many instances of interpretative refinements and rethinking...To be sure, Schiff does not always surpass his younger self. The Book 2 B flat major Prelude's newly calibrated linear profile misses the earlier traversal's suppleness and humour...Reservations aside, Schiff remains a stimulating Bach pianist who happily refuses to rest on his discographical laurels.

New York Times, 23rd November 2012
Playing with crystalline clarity and a rhythmic buoyancy that highlights the works' dance elements, Mr. Schiff reveals the contrapuntal brilliance and the joy, wit and melancholy of these 24 preludes and fugues.

MusicWeb International, January 2013
He presents each prelude and fugue as a carefully polished gem. Not using the sustaining pedal helps give the impression of separation between notes - as one hears more on a harpsichord. This serves to bring out the rhythms of the pieces. His ornamentation is subtle and limited, but one gets the feeling that it is just right...a fine recording of Bach's great preludes and fugues - one that even those hesitant to listen to the work on a modern piano should seek out.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Auditorio Radiotelevisione Svizzera, Lugano (08/2011).


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Works Details

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : The Well-Tempered Clavier (48), collection of preludes & fugues in 2 Books, BWV 846-893 (BC L80-127)
  • Performer: Andras Schiff (Piano)
  • Running Time: 224 min. 5 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Written: 1722-1740