Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I

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LABELS: Delphian
ALBUM TITLE: Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I
WORKS: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I
PERFORMER: Peter Hill (piano)


Peter Hill’s eloquent recording of Book Two of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier was released in January 2012, and this new release of the earlier book completes the set.

Hill establishes his voice from the outset with fluid, velvet-toned playing and a predominantly introspective, rather than showy, approach. Exploiting the expressive range of the piano, Hill paints the score like an artist at his canvas, with an acute awareness of colour and timbre, light and shade, refined – no doubt – by his extensive experience of playing Messiaen. Such an approach heightens Bach’s harmonic sonorities and the different affects roused by different keys, from the shimmering, pointillistic quality of the Prelude in C sharp major to the sable glow of the G minor fugue, and from the chill austerity of its G sharp minor counterpart to the spare radiance of the final work in the book, with its hauntingly chromatic subject.

Despite the textural complexity of the fugues, Bach’s contrapuntal lines sound limpid and song-like, Hill voicing and illuminating them to highlight their lyricism without ever forcing the sound. There are occasional liberties with tempo, dynamic and daubs of the sustaining pedal, but they are so subtly and instinctively judged that even the staunchest purist should not find them too indulgent. In short, these are exquisitely poetic and, above all, painterly accounts.


Kate Bolton