J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 and 2

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Bernard Roberts
Individual Works:The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book One (BWV 846 - BWV 869).
The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book Two (BWV 870 - BWV 893).
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Nimbus
Catalog Number:NI 5608/11
Year Released/Recorded:1998
Total Playing Time:4 hrs., 17 min.
Comments:T.L. Hubeart Jr. said:

A very fine recording of the "48" which does not attempt to superimpose the performer's personality (a la Gould) over the music. Bernard Roberts' 4 disc set will probably get a lot of attention from prospective record buyers for its bargain price, but that should not detract from the beauty of the performance itself. I am particularly taken, for example, by Roberts' playing of the E flat minor Prelude from Book 1; punctuated by arpeggiated chords, the Prelude sounds almost like a nocturne, and yet the playing is faithful to Bach's score in a way that other maverick performers often are not.

The only negative thing I can say about this set has nothing to do with Roberts, but pertains to the singularly unhelpful liner notes by one Wilfrid Mellers. These notes tell us much about Mellers' own preoccupations and prejudices; for instance, he refers more than once to Christ as a mere "human being" and quotes repeatedly William Blake's line "Jesus Christ IS the Human Imagination." (None of this has anything to do with Bach, who most assuredly DID believe that Jesus Christ was God's Son; and in any case it is for the annotator to demonstrate the relevance of the whole matter to the music in question, something Mellers seems quite uninterested in doing.) Thankfully, one can easily ignore these useless liner notes and glory in Roberts' fine playing. This set will be very attractive to both the Bach novice and the sophisticate who wants to hear Sebastian's own voice without a lot of interpretive meddling and interference. And the price will certainly be an added incentive.

Darren Furr said:

This is a fine rendition of the 48. The tempi are appropriately moderate; the flow of Roberts' interpretation is expressive without being romantic, even without being mechanical. In all, it is a nice balance between being historically correct and emotionally relevant.

One small warning regarding Roberts' playing: He is a big fan of the trill. Most notably, the fifth fugue of book one is marred beyond recognition-- that is unless you enjoy such rococo.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • T.L. Hubeart Jr.
  • Darren Furr
Date First Submitted:01/30/2000