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The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 & 2 [4 CD] Box set

4.5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, February 8, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

TURECK ROSALYN

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This is the sort of set you start keeping score on, as positive and negative factors occur. The 1953 mono recording sounds every year of its age, so at four CDs for the price of three it's not a great bargain. Tureck writes at length in the booklet about her style of Bach playing and how it has changed over half a century, but she still endorses these performances. The listeners who respond best to them will probably be those hankering for the good old days when we didn't worry too much about issues of Baroque style. Tureck plays clearly and uses some proper ornaments, but she often romanticizes the music with slow tempos and extremes of dynamics. For every fugue she nails (like No. 12 in Book I) there are several that seem distended by modern standards. Even without the sparkling Feltsman edition for MusicMasters (recently deleted), there are several piano performances of the WTC available that will suit most tastes better, including the provocative and sometimes crazy Gould and the relatively straightforward Schiff. --Leslie Gerber
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Product Details

  • Composer: J. S. Bach
  • Audio CD (February 8, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B000031X83
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,502 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I was brought up on Tureck's Well-Tempered Clavier and have eagerly awaited this CD issue ever since CDs were invented. I am not disappointed. The tempi are occasionally slower than some modern performances (Schiff, et al)but the crystal clarity and articulation is amazing. Listen to the B-flat Fugue (No 17) in book 1 and marvel at the way the different voices are brought-out. By comparison Schiff seems unsubtle and Gould sounds (to me) crude. Is Tureck true to baroque style? Who knows. This collection is pure music at the very highest level - not a history book! The recording is not wonderful by today's standards but more than adequate once you have got used to the tape hiss. For me, this edition is definitive.
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Yes, there is tape hiss, but it's unobtrusive and should not hinder the musical appreciation of any true Bachian. As to tempi, Tureck has a feel for expressing the timeless quality of the WTC, and at her most successful, tempo concerns dissolve. Go to Gould for pianistic virtuosity and an ego that sometimes bruises phrases, other times lifts them to heights of expressive potential; to Fischer (on Naxos) for the personality, the character of each prelude and fugue; to Hewitt for dynamics of almost Lisztian vibrancy, and to Schiff if you want bland, generic vanilla Bach. But if you want your WTC to approach something of the spirtuality and depth of the Matthew Passion or the B-Minor Mass, go with Tureck. She invests every fiber of her apparently reverent soul into each note, a performance which the light of heart can confuse with ponderousness. In short, Tureck's WTC is a must for those who must have their Bach mean as well as say something. For them, considerations such as tape hiss are trivial.
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Format: Audio CD
This is perhaps the most beautiful recording that I have had the pleasure of hearing. I also have piano interpretations of the Well Tempered Clavier by Edwin Fischer, Glen Gould, Andras Schiff and Jeno Jando. While the Fischer recording is also an essential purchase, Tureck's is the only one that holds me spellbound from start to finish. Her tempi are highly variable (note that she was a major influence of Gould's style of playing), but her composure and control are never in doubt. There is quite a lot of background hiss which can be troublesome at first, but over time this became totally insignificant in relation to magnificent music. To me, this music is perfect - one of the only works that, for me, creates the impression of time standing still.
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Format: Audio CD
This remastering of a 1953 DG recording is a treasure in that it captures one of the 20th century's Bach specialists at her prime. For Tureck or Bach groupies, this 4-CD release is perhaps a must-have. But, for the hiss... at some tracks a faint whisper and on other tracks a veritable steam leak. Outside of pirate recordings of that era, I've heard no other early 50's remastering with so much intrusive noise. The amount of hiss surprised me, particularly since this source came from an established, presigious recording compny. As for the liner notes, the proof is left to most American students, since the text is only in French and German. So, Ms. Tureck gets a "5" for her artistry and love of Bach, and Deutsche Grammaphone gets a "1" for an inconsistent technical recording, for an overall "3."
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Format: Audio CD
The Tureck recordings of the Well-Tempered Clavier are so old that they were originally released on monaural LPs. My first exposure to them -- and to Tureck -- was the re-released, enhanced-to-sound-like-stereo versions. Like this CD, the more recent LPs are based on old monaural recordings that show their age.

But for me, at least, the background hiss is worth it because I am entranced by Tureck's rendition of the Preludes and Fugues. Yes, many of them are slower than more recent recordings, and you can't hear her singing as prominently as if Glenn Gould were at the keyboard (oh wait...), but what I have not seen her critics mention below is her voicing: her ten fingers create three, or four, or even five independent lines in each of the fugues. Give a listen to the C# minor fugue from Book One for an example. Any 4-year-old can learn the four-note subject in four seconds. But this cathedral of a fugue, with its new multiple subjects introduced at the end of the "exposition", is a monster to play contrapuntally. All five voices are heard independently in this recording.

Tureck has the speed necessary to execute the brilliant preludes, as well; witness the D Major, d minor, and Bb Major fugues from Book One.

I confess I am not familiar with many of the other popular recordings of the WTC, so I have little to compare this recording to. However, I recommend this recording. I also recommend Tureck's recordings of the partitas, and the Goldberg variations.
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Format: Audio CD
i'm just a country bumpkin, but i like to think i recognize greatness when i hear it. these mono recordings from 1953 have greatness all over them, to my ear. i see a couple of reviewers complain of the sound (not the performance) but to me the sound is fine. these are recordings from 1953 after all, and the somewhat archaic quality of the sound seems to add to the sense of music from another time and place that is thrilling, at least to me. there is so much warmth and heart to her playing that any technical matter regarding the transfer of the music from analog to digital is beside the point. this is simply stunning bach music brought to life by a master interpreter. get this by all means. then, if you want a recording of this material with a more updated technical sound quality, get till fellner's "das wohltemperierte klavier." that is wonderful, as well.
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