J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Andras Schiff
Instrumentation:Piano
Individual Works:24 Preludes and Fugues, BWV 846-869
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:London
Catalog Number:414388-2
Year Released/Recorded:1984
Total Playing Time:disc 1: 54:08
disc 2: 56:04
Comments:Jan Hanford said:

Perfection! Andras Schiff plays the piano more delicately than I've ever heard. While many pianists bully their way across the keyboard, pounding out the preludes and crashing through the fugues, Schiff flies lightly across the keyboard. Pieces which previously started to put me to sleep suddenly made me sit up and listen.

John Grant said:

There are so many different ways of playing the Well-tempered Clavier as a whole, and so many different approaches to each prelude and fugue, that generalizations are difficult--except the following: Unlike all other recordings of the 48, Schiff provides quite different readings of each piece. One is always surprised! Also, Schiff's capacity to separate the voices remains unequalled by any other artist including, I dare say, by Gould (whose intepretations are nonetheless marvelous).

A possible negative, if you are a fan of the "grand conception," you won't get it with Schiff. A number of the really lengthy and difficult preludes and fugues, for example, no.s 24, 8, and 4 from Bk 1, which can be played with a conception of the whole, do not, in Schiff's hands, provide the "architecture" or big picture, that S. Richter and R. Tureck sometimes give us. But my feeling is that this is just not what Bach is about for Schiff.

Some really terrific--indeed, unmatched--readings are Schiff's G major prelude and fugue from Bk 2 (no. 15) as well as many other later preludes and fugues from Bk 2. Bk 2, by the way, seems to have much better recorded sound than Bk 1.

Certainly a must buy.

Acknowledgements:
  • John GrantFrom the collection of Jan Hanford.
  • Date First Submitted:04/17/1995