Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Clavier

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WORKS: Das wohltemperierte Clavier, Book I
PERFORMER: Maurizio Pollini (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 477 8078


 While Maurizio Pollini is not well known for his performances of Bach’s music he is no stranger to it. Indeed, in 1985, the tercentenary of Bach’s birth, Pollini gave recitals of the 48 Preludes and Fugues in many of the world’s capitals. Now, for the first time he has committed to disc Book 1 of what Schumann famously advocated to aspiring pianists as ‘your daily bread’. 

Like Vladimir Ashkenazy (Decca), Pollini never allows himself to indulge in expressive overstatement. Daniel Barenboim (Warner) does and, to my ears his highly subjective approach becomes wearisome.

Pollini is a little less fastidious in detail than Ashkenazy, and a little more indulgent in his use of the sustaining pedal, but his playing perhaps creates a stronger feeling of immediacy. His view of the music is almost invariably lyrical and often expressively intense.

The Fugue in E flat minor – enthusiasts of Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries will know at once which one I mean – is quite superbly done, as is the sensuously played E minor Prelude, though I found the sudden gear change in the concluding bars of its Fugue too abrupt.


While I find the A flat Prelude a little understated and the B flat minor Fugue a bit too somnolent, such disappointments are few and far between and are generously offset by virtues such as the playful charm of the C sharp major Fugue and the brilliance of the G major Prelude.