JS Bach: Das wohltemperirte Clavier, Book 1

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ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach: Das wohltemperirte Clavier, Book 1
WORKS: Das wohltemperirte Clavier, Book 1
PERFORMER: Andrei Vieru (piano)
With his recording of Book 1 of Bach’s ‘48’, Andrei Vieru enters


an arena containing formidable rivals, among them Edwin Fischer (Naxos), András Schiff (Decca), Glenn Gould (Sony) and Angela Hewitt (Hyperion). Vieru plays an up-to-the-minute Steinway which sounds mellower to my ears than is customarily so. He is on the whole self-effacing in his musical gestures, which lack the strong inflections of Fischer or Gould, for instance. Vieru is a more reflective player than either of them, more readily bringing Schiff to mind. He favours a predominantly legato approach as opposed to the more crisply articulated Bach playing of Hewitt, often bringing a greater degree of gravitas to the music without being in any way ponderous. Nevertheless, I prefer Hewitt’s more restrained use of the sustaining pedal than Vieru demonstrates, and I am drawn to the greater communicative warmth of her approach. The combination of all-pervasive legato with liberal use of the sustaining pedal sometimes blurs the music’s texture in Vieru’s playing – the D minor Prelude is a case in point where Fischer for instance allows an inner melodic voice to emerge as a sublime piece of poetry whereas in Vieru’s hands

it just fails to make its mark.


What I miss in Vieru’s account of Book I are that extraordinary individuality of character, vitality and vision of which both Fischer, notwithstanding erring technicalities, and Gould were supremely capable. In short, while I like Vieru’s expressive restraint and his seriousness of purpose, which certainly fulfil the didactic side of Bach’s endeavour, it is Fischer’s sense of adventure and feeling for the music’s poetry which win the day. Nicholas Anderson