JS Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II

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COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: Delphian
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II
PERFORMER: Peter Hill (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DCD 34101

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Peter Hill is the latest to join the parade of pianists – Edwin Fischer, Glenn Gould, Angela Hewitt, Tatiana Nikolayeva, Sviatoslav Richter, András Schiff and Rosalyn Tureck, to name just a few – who have recorded JS Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier. In addition to his explorations of the Second Viennese School, Hill is best known for his monumental cycle of the complete piano works of Olivier Messiaen. Indeed, many of the qualities that characterise his Messiaen are present here: note his use of varied pianistic colours – here muted, there radiant, sonorous then shimmering. And, as in his recordings of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern, Hill unfolds contrapuntal lines with clarity, displaying an eloquent understanding of the music’s underlying structure.

Hill’s technique is impressive, but he eschews flamboyant showmanship, bringing instead humility, poise and gravitas to these accounts. Tempos are thoughtfully judged and tend to underscore the reflective, meditative qualities that underlie many of Bach’s later works. The recorded sound is somewhat boxy and the microphones pick up the keyboard hammers. At around £14 for two discs, however, it’s hard to complain.

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Kate Bolton