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What are your fave recording of well tempered clavier?


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Posted on Dec 8, 2012 5:45:01 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 8, 2012 5:53:12 AM PST
scarecrow says:
Yes Maria Yudina brings that extra something to the music,like Grigory Sokolov,
Yudina always had Richter inspired. . . . see his Diaries. . .
For WTC what I've heard,Sviatoslav Richter is my first choice,
Martha Argerich,Edith Fischer, Claudio Arrau, her teacher as well. . . .

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 7, 2012 11:05:34 PM PST
KenOC,

Thanks for mentioning Jill Crossland - one of my favourite WTCs, unfortunately not very well known.

My preferences:
Piano: Bernard Roberts, Jill Crossland, Constantin Lifschitz (DVD), Daniel Barenboim;
Harpsichord: Helmut Walcha, Bob van Asperen, Davitt Moroney.

Posted on Dec 4, 2012 8:11:42 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 4, 2012 8:13:05 PM PST
KenOC says:
Just by the way -- a WTC well worth checking out is Jill Crossland's on piano. Not flashy but very nice and occasionally quite intense. On the "romantic" side but without affectations.

Well Tempered Clavier

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 8:36:23 AM PST
Mandryka says:
I feel very positive about Schiff's new Bk 2. He comes up with exactly what the music demands -- each piece has its own distinctive mood. There's a sense of engagement which was lacking from the earlier recording. This is a very listenable recording, entertaining and warm and colourful. Certainly the best Bach I've heard from Schiff.

Posted on Nov 13, 2012 6:19:16 AM PST
Coin Tilney, one of few since Anthony Newman to use more than one instrument -- harpsichord, clavichord and fortepiano -- with all the musicality of other interpreters.

Posted on Nov 12, 2012 9:41:10 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 12, 2012 10:21:08 PM PST
Mandryka says:
Yes, that's the one. He's said somewhere that he's influenced by clavichord sound when he plays piano, hence the intimacy. The agogic hesitations are something I've found you get used to.

If you can find a way to hear Glen Wilson's I'd be very interested to know what you make of it. I played some of it last night after making that post about his melancholy, and was struck by the daring originality of the conception. It's not true, what I said about major key pieces. Some of Wilson's most heartfelt playing is in major key fugues.

It's quite astonishing how modern performers are playing the music, astonishing how revealing HIP is.

Does anyone like what Edwin Fischer does with WTC?

Posted on Nov 12, 2012 2:14:19 PM PST
Thanks for the suggestions on Verlet and Rubsam, Mandyka. Are you referring the Rubsam CD that has several Preludes from the WTC sans Fugues? I listened to the samples that were offered on that disc and thought it sounded refreshing to hear a harpsichordist/organist/pianist play with more agogic freedoms than most pianists (only) would dare to use.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 12, 2012 1:56:45 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 12, 2012 1:58:37 PM PST
Mandryka says:
One record, apart from Blandine Verlet's, which mines this music for emotional depth is Glen Wilson's. What I would say is that Wilson tends to feel most at home with darker emotions. He's quite wonderful in the minor key pieces of WTC 2, where he finds a real tragedy, melancholy, which is quite unlike anythng I've heard elsewhere. If I have one reservation about him, it's that he's less happy with more positive, uplifting music, or so it seems to me.

I listened today to bits of Martins' CD on spotify. It's interesting. He's not lacking in imagination. In some ways he reminded me a bit of Russell Sherman, in his new CD of Chopin mazurkas. I need more time to feel at home with both recordings.

Posted on Nov 11, 2012 1:41:18 PM PST
WH says:
Lark wrote concerning the new ECM recording of Schiff: "I have not been able to listen to long stretches or get through an entire side. It's hard to put into words, but I generally like to hear more underlying silence in a performance, inner stillness or whatever, or too much of the music can sound mechanical. He also seems to have his eye on the goal of completing the work rather than consistently enjoying the journey along the way, in his more straightforward approach. In taking some of the "sentiment" out, he may have also lessened its overall listenability. For this listener, music needs to have sufficient room to breathe or Bach, particularly, can sound claustrophobic, and I generally do not do well with recordings when there is not enough air between the notes or where the performance sounds like it's all about the notes rather than, just as importantly, the space between them. There must be a certain sense of lingering too, regardless of the tempo, or overall the performance can sound tense or surface, and rather than getting closer to the humanity of Bach's intentions, or to illustrate not only the technical variety but the emotional range of the different keys, I feel that Schiff may have gotten farther away. Still, I'd rate this as a very fine performance even if not exactly to my taste."

Lark, I appreciate your review, but it seems that we come to WTC with different expectations. The issue of "inner stillness" and "air between notes" is not really what I would look for in the WTC. First, I think we need to get back and remember what Bach was doing when he published the WTC. They are two books of etudes. They were not intended to be listened to in a public performance from start to finish. They were written to be performed in small units, as pairs. They were, as best as I can gather, as student works, exercises--certainly of the highest caliber and of an eloquence that vastly surpasses the original genre--but they are still exercises. I know all that sounds obvious, but I think we can distort what Bach was doing by listening to 4 CDs from start to finish, or even one CD from start to finish, as though it were a single work to be heard continuously the way we listen to a Beethoven symphony. (Heck, even the way we listen to Beethoven sonatas is weird, listening to one sonata after another). I don't listen to Bach's WTC for long stretches. I listened to a handful of prelude / fugue pairs, then stop. There's simply so much going on that my concentration lapses. I should add that I react in a similar way to Shostakovich's brilliant Preludes and Fugues. I listen to four or five, then move on to something else.

While there is a depth of spirituality in Bach, especially in his Cantatas and his Passions, and there is at times a reverent contemplative quality to some of his keyboard works -- so that "inner stillness" is an appropriate descriptor -- what I would highlight is the sheer joyous playfulness of many of the Prelude / Fugues. I find that Schiff captures the many, varied moods, the playfulness, the contemplative, the exuberant inventiveness, the whimsical mathematics of it. People around here have a bigger repertoire of performances at their fingertips than I do. So perhaps Schiff's may be heard as lacking something. I don't find it lacking anything that I'm looking for. I'm impressed by Schiff's sensitivity to Baroque aesthetics, even if he is playing it on a modern piano. As I noted above, I appreciate that he gives a harpsichord feel to certain Preludes, even while playing it on piano. He takes (proper) advantage of the piano's capacity for extended legatos and subtleties of voice leading, features that can't replicated on harpsichord. So Lark, I read Schiff's performance (and not just the sound quality) as superior. All the best.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2012 9:43:53 AM PST
Piso Mojado says:
WH -- I think I've mentioned just hearing Andras Schiff play Book II, with my impressions on "What Concerts" and elsewhere. I also heard Barenboim play Book II with about the same result.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2012 6:27:50 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 11, 2012 7:06:50 AM PST
Mandryka says:
Yes lots of people have been saying to me they like Dantone"s WTC. Someone even suggested that if I like Vartolo's Goldbergs (which I do, very much), then I'll like Dantone in Well Tempered Clavier.

Anyway so far it's eluded me. I just hear competant but rather workanlike, mainstream playing. Maybe I've missed somethng. I felt the same about most of the other Dantone records I've heard, some Handel and Scarlatti.

Don't forget Bill that all that really interests me at the moment in WTC is variety of emotions expressed. Maybe Verlet is the best I can do, the rest playing it like a sequence of academic exercises. Someone (who I don't entirely trust) said that a strength of Schiff's new one is that he changes his style according to the meaning, the feeling, that he finds in the music. But that view doesn't seem to be echoed here. I guess I'll have to try Schiff for myself, even if he isn't a pianist I've been very keen on in the past.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2012 6:16:32 AM PST
Mandryka -

You might want to sample some of Sergei Schepkin's, or Martins' second traversal. Some people find their approaches insufficiently restrained, even mannered, but that's not how I hear them.

Well Tempered Clavier Book 1
Well Tempered Clavier II

Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1
Bach, J.S.: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2

I'm not a huge fan of Bach on the harpsichord (and I've tried any number of recordings), but the version by Ottavio Dantone is excellent:

Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Clavier, Teil I
Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Clavier, Teil II

Bill

Posted on Nov 11, 2012 4:10:11 AM PST
Dmitri says:
Gould.... once I heard him play... there doesn't seem anyone close to matching him.

I don't understand the fascination with Richter.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2012 11:07:35 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 10, 2012 11:44:31 PM PST
Mandryka says:
Your continued advocacy of Walcha's second recording, Charles, has made me revisit that several times ober the past few months. And I can indeed see why you love it so much. There's such a strong sense of the music, the architecture of the music, in there. When he's at his best, like in the C minor of Bk 2, he's unforgettable. And the sheer energy, like some sort of sewing machine on speed, is very very attractive.

What I don't find in Walcha is the range of affect which I'm looking for, and which I find in Blandine Verlet.

Charles, have you heard Rubsam's selection from Bk 1 on Naxos? If not, I think you should!

My question about tempo was prompted through listenng to a different piece - Vartolo's Art of the Fugue. Vartolo makes loads of internal tempo changes in the pieces, which imposes on them structures. The music suddenly has codas, preludes, takes the form of a triptych, an arch etc. This may be a trend, I noticed the same thing in Lena Jacobson's extraordinary Buxtehude CD. I certainly wouldn't mind hearing a WTC which was as bold in this respect.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2012 7:55:08 PM PST
KenOC says:
Thanks WH.

Larkenfield, to help calibrate my expectations: What do you think of Gould's recordings, interpretation-wise?

Posted on Nov 10, 2012 7:50:21 PM PST
WH says:
Ken, You know Schiff better than I. I'll take your word on his personality. I only know what I've heard of his Bach performances. Last week, I stumbled across a used copy of his 2003 ECM recording of the Goldbergs. I've listened to it all the way through 4 or 5 times, and again am impressed with what I've heard. But I think this new WTC performance is better.

Posted on Nov 10, 2012 7:48:34 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 10, 2012 8:19:27 PM PST
Larkinfield says:
WH, it's possible you may be right about the eventual ranking of the new Schiff recording. It's indeed beautifully recorded with wonderful golden tones - one of the recordings great strengths - but I have a less favorable reaction to his performance, starting with what I miss as a certain lingering and consistent depth to the music. He seems to have taken more of himself out of the musical equation and playing according to a plan, and I feel it's noticeable. The Praludiums can sound as if they are being played with the same sameness of approach as the fugues, and certain subtleties are lost rather than gained. I even found the performance to be somewhat rushed in places, impatient and irritating, with some notable exceptions, such as No. 14, the Fuge, and other places where he seems to relax more, and yet I have not been able to listen to long stretches or get through an entire side. It's hard to put into words, but I generally like to hear more underlying silence in a performance, inner stillness or whatever, or too much of the music can sound mechanical.

He also seems to have his eye on the goal of completing the work rather than consistently enjoying the journey along the way, in his more straightforward approach. In taking some of the "sentiment" out, he may have also lessened its overall listenability. For this listener, music needs to have sufficient room to breathe or Bach, particularly, can sound claustrophobic, and I generally do not do well with recordings when there is not enough air between the notes or where the performance sounds like it's all about the notes rather than, just as importantly, the space between them.

There must be a certain sense of lingering too, regardless of the tempo, or overall the performance can sound tense or surface, and rather than getting closer to the humanity of Bach's intentions, or to illustrate not only the technical variety but the emotional range of the different keys, I feel that Schiff may have gotten farther away. Still, I'd rate this as a very fine performance even if not exactly to my taste. I don't have a particular favorite as of yet. Best wishes, Lark ♬

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2012 7:32:20 PM PST
KenOC says:
WH, yes I know that you were referring to other comments, including Schiff's own.

I'm a little nervous about one thing. Schiff is (at heart) an absolutist. Example: He plays the first movement of the Moonlight with the pedal *always down*, smearing it all over the neighborhood. Why? Because the score says so! Hey András, different piano then and now, y'know?

So if he plays totally without pedal here, are there moments when I'm going to ask, "Hey, where's the darned pedal?" Any thoughts?

Posted on Nov 10, 2012 7:07:08 PM PST
George says:
1. Feinberg
2. Tureck (DG)
3. Richter (RCA or Innsbruck)

Posted on Nov 10, 2012 6:56:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 10, 2012 7:02:46 PM PST
WH says:
Ken, I agree. It's not "romantic." I was playing off Schiff's comments about his earlier sentimentality (and if I remember right, that was how one of the critics referred to that 80s version). What I was trying to highlight was the effect of his lack of use of the pedal, of rubatos or ritardandos. There's an effortless seamlessness to this new performance. I've been entranced by his performance. Here's a few quotes from recent reviews:

The Times: Rating ****
"Schiff plays with hands alone, avoiding sounds that linger and fade for the delights of the sober, the centred, and clean. Impersonal playing? Not at all. But the personality on display is Bach's rather than Schiff's. And full pleasure comes with close concentration as Schiff, without frills or deviation, leads us straight to the music's heart."

BBC Music Magazine (Dec. 2012): Rating ****
"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."

I agree with The Times review: Bach's personality really comes to the fore.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2012 6:47:05 PM PST
KenOC says:
Thanks WH! The sound is quite obviously improved. At first hearing the new recording has a more detail in the playing and is more absorbing. I don't hear the prior recording as "romantic" at all, though.

Posted on Nov 10, 2012 6:24:45 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 10, 2012 6:27:07 PM PST
WH says:
I'm surprised that since this thread was revived in the last 24 hours that no one has discussed the new performance of the complete WTC by Andras Schiff, Well Tempered Clavier Books I & II (ECM, 2012). For me, it's the best classical recording of 2012 that I have heard. Over on another Bach thread, Ken asked me to discuss how the new performance differs from his late 80s versions. Let me copy some of what I posted earlier. First, Schiff's own judgment about his new effort. In the review by The Independent in England--which gave the new recording a 4 star rating--the reviewer says the following: "Schiff admits he now dislikes the sentimentality of some of his earlier Bach recordings; and this one is certainly clear of such emotional indulgences...the result is a supremely classical rendition of one of classical music's keynote works, blessed with an almost transparent clarity." I think Schiff may be too hard on himself, on his earlier masterful performance. I would disagree with him: His earlier recording was not indulgent or sentimental. It may just be the words of an artist who is a perfectionist.

That said, I do think the new one is a significant advance in nuance. It's hard to describe. The feeling is often more powerful by being understated, by the subtle ascensions in accents that run through the middle voices.

The opening Prelude and Fugue in C major from Book I can be given a side-by-side hearing. Here's the 1984 version on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUBxydt6P7w
Here's the same opening from the new recording. Here's the link on the ECM website:
http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showthread.php?p=604726#post604726

This lets one get a glimmer of the much superior sound quality of the new recording. To my ear, the ECM recording is a significant advance in terms of sonics. But the real issue is interpretation. Notice how much lighter, more transparent, the new interpretation is. It has a harpsichord-like lightness with the flow and depth of sound only possible on a piano. The 80s interpretation is deep and resonant, but the piano lacks some of the resonance and the purity. Maybe it's the older recording. I wouldn't call the older recording "romantic," but by comparison with the new one, it is, or as the Independent reviewer puts it, the new one has a more classicizing interpretation. But I would say that what really comes out is the "well-tempered" quality. You can really feel what Bach was doing in terms of exploring what having a consistent temperament across the 24 keys means, the texture and expressive quality of remote keys, their unique textures, their--well--their temperament.

I've been living with the new Schiff recording for over a month now, listening to a few preludes and fugues every day. I'm very impressed with it as a comprehensive interpretation. I've spent more time on the first two discs (= Book I), but I believe this new performance will be ranked with the best.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2012 5:57:11 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 10, 2012 7:00:25 PM PST
Larkinfield says:
That's my understanding though perhaps Bach personally conveyed his intentions to the performers at the time. But who knows how many of these intentions were passed on down the line intact during the past 250 years? ... which brings up the question of the commonly accepted conventions and Bach performance practices of the recent past and most contemporary accounts of today.

Conventions - For instance, after the introductory Aria, the 1st Variation of the Goldbergs is invariable blasted away at a forte as a given - with even two such stylistic opposites as Glenn Gould and Rosalyn Tureck being examples - a generally accepted convention though there is NO forte marking in Bach's original manuscript and the practice was probably passed on from one teacher to the next, perhaps without questioning.

However, sometimes a convention is not followed, an example being Wilhelm Kempff, who does not blast away in the 1st Variation, in a work supposedly written to be played at night by an insomniac. I agree with him... and how refreshing. Here's a performer who has truly made the Goldbergs his own.

So if one keeps in mind how few markings Bach wrote in his original manuscripts, it gives the performer considerable latitude for interpretation and says a great deal about the personal instincts that each performer must rely on to create a performance that will still work within its own context.

There are great possibilities of freedom that can add a special enjoyment to hearing these timeless works, especially if we as listeners understand how little Bach provided other than the basic lines and architecture. Lark ♬

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2012 4:55:42 PM PST
barbW says:
Agnes Moorehead as Wanda Landowska (1/3)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7n_emJqIMk&feature=relmfu

Posted on Nov 10, 2012 4:40:27 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 10, 2012 8:41:08 PM PST
Agree that she is awesome, Edgar. Like MR Simpson, I love the early Tureck set too (especially Book 1) and van Asperen, but Richter is something else in that D major from WTC1. There are a number of really fine B minors from Book 1, starting with Edwin Fischer who plays octaves in the LH walking bass in the Prelude (not single notes). He doesn't always plays detached 8ths notes and makes very conscious decisions about when he changes his LH articulation. He reaches very deep into the heart of the fugue and achieves a raptness that draws the listener in to the deep introspection of the piece. The episodes make a lot of sense between thematic entries which he plays so as to keep the listener grounded, yet these statements are played with varying degrees of emphasis. I would say he uses the resources of the piano in a really intelligent way and maintains rhythmic stability. For me, this is an important performance to hear.

Samuil Feinberg has one of my favorite F# minors from Book 2. I am a little disappointed with the transfer to CD of the Feinberg set (over compressed) and would love to hear a natural sounding Pearl transfer. Schiff plays the G#minor from Book 2 wonderfully, excellent tempo in the Prelude keeps the music whirling along and Koopman is very impressive in the great Bb minor from Book 2. Gieseking is well suited to the Bb major in Book 2 and early Tureck is also very good here. This is one of the rarer examples in the work where the Prelude is more substantial than the Fugue.

Then there are the extreme tempo performances eg. the Bb minor Bk.2 has Gould clock in at 3:19 and Richter at 7:43 in the Fugue, though Gould has gone on record saying that his conceptions are flexible enough to allow him to play a piece at half or double the speed.
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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
Participants:  30
Total posts:  94
Initial post:  Apr 10, 2011
Latest post:  Dec 8, 2012

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