Bach: Das wohltemperirte Clavier, Book 2

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WORKS: Das wohltemperirte Clavier, Book 2
PERFORMER: Rosalyn Tureck (piano)
In 1975 and 1976 Rosalyn Tureck recorded Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier for a series of BBC radio programmes. The present release completes the cycle (Book 1 was reviewed in February), and, like the earlier volume, provides an interesting gloss upon the pianist’s 1952/3 studio versions reissued by DG (reviewed May 2000). Comparative listening reveals that time did not impair Tureck’s acute finger independence and genius for imparting the utmost in shape and specificity to Bach’s polyphony (in the preludes as well as the fugues). Her dynamics grew wider and bolder, although the supple roundness of her detaché playing often appears to have calcified into something harder-edged and more brittle, characteristics no doubt enhanced by the stridency and metallic hue of the engineering at the loudest moments. Tureck had also expanded her already bulging portfolio of articulations: listen, for example, to the way she deftly orchestrates the G major Prelude’s toccata-like patterns or clarifies the C sharp major Prelude’s usually glossed-over voice leading.


Tureck’s slower pieces work least well when the results are unyielding and severe, such as the G minor, E major and B flat minor Fugues. In the F minor Prelude, on the other hand, Tureck uncovers layers of nuance and meaning in every bar, transforming this deceptively simple keyboard work into a veritable cantata movement, whose climax manages to be both emotionally shattering and harmonically logical simultaneously. And a flexible, introspective treatment of the G sharp minor Prelude and Fugue reveals Tureck at her communicative best (and Bach at the peak of his craft, for that matter). My quibbles will not detract Tureck’s admirers from acquiring this set (especially at its 3-for-2 price) although Angela Hewitt’s more impulsive, dance-oriented artistry, together with Hyperion’s state-of-the-art engineering, is a safer recommendation for collectors seeking a ‘reference’ Book 2. Jed Distler