Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2
PERFORMER: Jenö Jandó (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.550970/1 DDD
Bach’s ‘48’ were probably written for an unequal tuning system which makes all keys tolerable to the ear, but leaves them ‘variegated’, as his pupil, Kirnberger, put it – each with a discernably distinctive colour. This may account for the distinctive characters of the Preludes in particular, although this second book was partly a collation of earlier pieces, some of them transposed for the purpose.

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Jenö Jandó certainly captures the contrasting spirits of the Preludes, from the brilliance of the D minor to the limpid delicacy of the F sharp minor. His playing is technically assured, despite some suspect ornaments – a lumberingly unmeasured long left-hand trill in the E minor prelude, skittish appoggiaturas in the B major one. He responds warmly to the special quality which Bach seems to have reserved for the remote world of B flat minor with a rippling prelude and a fugue of extraordinary contrapuntal complexity.

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Alas! Jandó appears to have caught an infuriating obbligato humming habit from Glenn Gould. It would be lost by the front stalls in a live performance, but the recording picks it up constantly – sometimes in a foreign key, let alone a different temperament! George Pratt