Das Wohltemperierte Klavier II


Das Wohltemperierte Klavier BWV 870 - 893, og sitater om Bachs vidunderlige musikalske univers. 

1. Preludium & Fuge i C-dur BWV 870 - Christine Schornsheim, cembalo

A generous tune full of leaps in the right hand and a heavy pedal point in the bass: what a theme; what a powerful, optimistic statement in the radiant key of C major. And all of that in this impressive provincial government building with a wonderful view of Utrecht! Twenty years after his first collection of music in every key imaginable, Bach completed a second 'Wohltemperirte Clavier'. We recorded his first book of Preludes and Fugues at the homes of 24 different musicians. For this second part, performed in its entirety by Christine Schornsheim, we chose 12 very different locations in Utrecht, to celebrate the 900th anniversary of our home city.

Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier constituted the 'Old Testament' to pianists, while Beethoven's Piano Sonatas were their 'New Testament'.

- Hans von Bülow

2. Preludium & Fuge i c-moll BWV 871 - Christine Schornsheim, cembalo

This Prelude and fugue in C minor, performed by Christine Schornsheim for All of Bach, is part of the second book of the 'Wohltemperirte Clavier'. Restlessly, the two parts in this Prelude pass the musical material back and forth to one another, alternating quick runs with an accompaniment full of leaps. The form is reminiscent of the first Invention, BWV 772, for example. The Fugue, too, is educational in character as a model of 'partimento'; a sort of schematic method for providing interesting decoration to a musical motif. 

So what are two analytical works, almost finger exercises, doing in the second part of the Wohltemperirte Clavier? The answer is simple. What we see purely as an artistic highlight was regarded by Bach of equal importance as an exercise book for his students - a sample sheet of ideas and styles. It is nice to be performing this work in the Anatomiegebouw, which is traditionally a centre for research and education. So this two-part work in C minor fulfils a very specific function that was essential in the greater whole, and the choice seems to have been made at the start of compiling the collection.

Let The Well-Tempered Clavier be your daily meat. Then you will certainly become a solid musician.

- Robert Schumann

3. Preludium & Fuge i Ciss-dur BWV 872 - Nikolai Demidenko, klaver

+ en alternativ versjon:) 

The Musical Times called Nikolai Demidenko Vladimir Horowitz's worthy successor, describing him as a pianist "whose power, intensity, technical finish, tonal palette and musical intelligence are probably unique among his generation". Demidenko studied at Moscow Conservatory, where he, too, won the Tchaikovsky Competition, in 1978.

And if we look at the works of JS Bach - a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity - on each page we discover things which we thought were born only yesterday, from delightful arabesques to an overflowing of religious feeling greater than anything we have since discovered. And in his works we will search in vain for anything the least lacking in good taste.

- Claude Debussy

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4. Preludium & Fuge i ciss-moll BWV 873 - Christine Schornsheim, cembalo

Each in their own way, the two works in this extensive diptych invite you to dance: a calm siciliano in the prelude, while the fugue lets rip a bit more in a quick giga. Bach maintains clarity in the music with three parts, which are essentially serious in character, but also light and full of energy, especially in the fugue.

The Well-Tempered Clavier is the highest and best school; no one will ever create a more ideal one."

- Frédéric Chopin

5. Preludium & Fuge i D-dur BWV 874 - Christine Schornsheim, cembalo

Prelude and fugue no. 5 of the 'Wohltemperirte Clavier' is theatre for ten fingers. Like a brightly coloured peacock's tail, the prelude unfolds in a triumphant upward movement. Followed by a complex, but surprisingly catchy fugue in a grand architecture, for optimal dramatic effect. All of this in a theatre in the home town of the Netherlands Bach Society. We recorded the first book of the 'Wohltemperirte Clavier' at the homes of 24 different musicians. 

.. I admit it's a habit. He (Bach) has given me such joy that I try to bring something of that joy to others. And there are books you cannot read just once. Those are the books that form a part of my programme. I believe that a musician must know the two volumes of the Well-Tempered Clavier inside-out, and if possible a good many of the cantatas. I try to pack them into my pupils at all costs. It would seem a bit odd to me if someone had never read the Bible.

- Nadia Boulanger

6. Preludium & Fuge i d-moll BWV 875 - Nikolai Demidenko, klaver

The title of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier refers to the new system of tuning keyboard instruments that had been developed by, amongst others, the Halberstadt organist Andreas Werckmeister (1645-1706), to make it possible to play in all 24 major and minor keys, something which hitherto had been impossible with "mean-tone" tuning. There were, however, several such "well-tempered" tuning in use at that time, and, contrary to earlier assumptions, there is simply no evidence that Bach wrote his two books of preludes and fugues for our modern "equal temperament", which is but one of several possible tunings. Whatever the case, for him the tempered tuning meant that he could use all major and minor keys to present a systematic, state-of-the-art compendium of the fugue form, which was then at the very peak of its development. Intended "both for the use and consumption of the eager-to-learn musical youth and as a special pastime for those already skilled in this discipline", Bach compiled the first part of his Well-Tempered Clavier in 1722; this was near the end of the period he spent in the service of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen - an essentially happy time for Bach, but marred by the sudden death of his first wife in 1720. When the second part of The Well-Tempered Clavier was completed in 1744, comprising another 24 fugues together with introductory preludes, Bach had already been Thomaskantor in Leipzig for more than 20 years and the fugue was no longer in vogue. This documental review almost seems to have been an attempt on the great composer's part to halt the march of time.

... The person who crystallized all these ideas for me was Nadia Boulanger, justly recognised as the most celebrated teacher of composition in the twentieth century. When she accepted me as a student in Paris in 1967, she had just turned eighty and was partially blind, but with all her other faculties in tip-top order. Her way of teaching harmony was founded on Bach's chorales, which she regarded as models of how to establish a beautiful polyphony - with each voice being accorded equal importance while still playing a different role in four-way conversation, now advancing, now retreating: contrapuntally conceived harmony, in other words. She insisted that the freedom to express yourself in music, whether as a composer, conductor or performer, demanded obedience to certain laws and the possession of unassailable technical skills. One of her favourite sayings was 'Talent [by which I think she meant technique] without genius is not worth much; but genius without talent is with nothing whatsoever.'

- John Eliot Gardiner 

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7. Preludium & Fuge i Ess-dur BWV 876 - Christine Schornsheim, cembalo

7. Preludium & Fuge i Ess-dur BWV 876 - Nikolai Demidenko, klaver

This prelude and fugue ripple elegantly through the mighty Dom Church in Utrecht, which forms the backdrop for one of Bach's more delicate works, in which Bach pretends he is writing it for the lute and the organ. This type of work, where one instrument imitates another, was one of Bach's trademarks. 

Bach is Bach, as God is God.

- Hector Berlioz

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8. Preludium & Fuge i diss-moll BWV 877 - Christine Schornsheim, cembalo

Although the location for this recording is unusual, it fits the prelude and fugue in D-sharp minor well. A very strict prelude in a very strict ambience: the old universitary Anatomiegebouw (Anatomy Building) for veterinary research. The fugue that follows is long and tough and clearly a work that needs patience - just like the scientific research carried out in the building.

I had no idea of the historical evolution of the civilized world's music and had not realized that all modern music owes everything to Bach.

- Niccolai Rimsky-Korsakov

9. Preludium & Fuge i E-dur BWV 878 - Nikolai Demidenko, klaver

Once I understood Bach's music, I wanted to be a concert pianist. Bach made me dedicate my life to music, and it was that teacher who introduced me to his world

- Nina Simone

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10. Preludium & Fuge i e-moll BWV 879 - Nikolai Demidenko, klaver

It's easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself.

- Johann Sebastian Bach

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11. Preludium & Fuge F-dur BWV 880 - Friedrich Gulda, klaver

On November 19th of 1990 Friedrich Gulda gave an encompassing account of his unique art in an uninterrupted 90-minute solo performance at the Philharmonie in Munich, Germany. LOFT music is proud to have presented and recorded this memorable musical event. J. S. Bach - Prelude and Fugue in F major (Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II) 

I never knew anyone so gifted or extraordinary as Friedrich Gulda

- Martha Argerich

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12. Preludium & Fuge f-moll BWV 881 - Piotr Anderszewski, klaver

As David Allen of The New York Times wrote, "Piotr Anderszewski might be the most convincingly unconventional Bach pianist since Glenn Gould, and he has certainly taken a creative approach to his first, mesmerizing recording of preludes and fugues from 'The Well-Tempered Clavier.' ... This is one of the great Bach recordings, period."

When you listen to Bach - you are in another world...... I would say he would be the best on the planet

- Jacques Loussier

13. Preludium & Fuge fiss-dur BWV 882 - Angela Hewitt, klaver

Canadian-born Angela Hewitt now lives in England. She won the Toronto International Bach Piano Competition in 1985, since which time The Sunday Times has called her "one of the outstanding Bach pianist of our time". She went on to win prizes at many other important competitions with praise at many other important competitions all over the globe, while her CD recordings of Bach works have been showered with praise and awards. Her comprehensive repertoire extends right into the present day.

Any musician, even the most gifted, takes a place second to Bach's at the very start.

- Paul Hindemith

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14. Preludium & Fuge fiss-moll BWV 883 - Angela Hewitt, klaver

I find that Bach is appealing to a lot of different audiences. It really hits people at their core in different ways, but it also creates a meditative space. I just feel like I can play it, and it reaches people.

- Hilary Hahn

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15. Preludium & Fuge G-dur BWV 884 - Angela Hewitt, klaver

During the 2007-2008 season, Angela embarked on her Bach World Tour, performing the Well-Tempered Clavier in 21 countries on six continents. At the same time, she released a DVD entitled Bach Performance on the Piano, sharing her experience of learning and performing Bach with amateurs and professionals alike. From September 2016 to September 2022 (the end delayed two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic) she presented in major cities of the world The Bach Odyssey-performing all the keyboard works of J.S. Bach in a series of twelve marathon recitals-a huge feat which has been undertaken by very few keyboard players. After her performances of the complete Well-Tempered Clavier at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival, the critic of the London Times wrote, "...the freshness of Hewitt's playing made it sound as though no one had played this music before."

In Bach, the vital cells of music are united as the world is in God.

- Gustav Mahler

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16. Preludium & Fuge g-moll BWV 885 - Piotr Anderszewski, klaver

Det er vanskelig å gjøre Bachs musikk personlig. Partiturene ligger der, så fullendte i seg selv. Men Piotr Anderszewski har en personlig stemme som kommer igjennom. Så han trenger ikke rope så veldig høyt for å bli hørt

- Ragnhild Veire Berg, NRK

17. Preludium & Fuge Ass-dur BWV 886 - Friedrich Gulda, klaver

"There can be no guarantee that I will become a great jazz musician, but at least I shall know that I am doing the right thing. I don't want to fall into the routine of the modern concert pianist's life, nor do I want to ride the cheap triumphs of the Baroque bandwagon." In jazz, he found "the rhythmic drive, the risk, the absolute contrast to the pale, academic approach I had been taught."

- Friedrich Gulda

Friedrich Gulda (16 May 1930 - 27 January 2000) was an Austrian pianist and composer who worked in both the classical and jazz fields. Born in Vienna as the son of a teacher, Gulda began learning to play the piano from Felix Pazofsky at the Wiener Volkskonservatorium, aged 7. In 1942, he entered the Vienna Music Academy, where he studied piano and musical theory under Bruno Seidlhofer and Joseph Marx. He won first prize at the Geneva International Music Competition in 1946. Initially, the jury preferred the Belgian pianist Lode Backx, but when the final vote was taken, Gulda was the winner. One of the jurors, Eileen Joyce, who favoured Backx, stormed out and claimed the other jurors were unfairly influenced by Gulda's supporters. 

Gulda began to play concerts worldwide. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1950. Together with Jörg Demus and Paul Badura-Skoda, Gulda formed what became known as the "Viennese troika". Although most famous for his Mozart and Beethoven interpretations, Gulda also performed the music of J. S. Bach (often on clavichord), Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Debussy and Ravel. His recordings of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier are well regarded by collectors. Apart from the Well Tempered Clavier, Gulda performed very few other pieces by Bach and recorded even fewer. 

Gulda's later reliance on co-operating with companies whose recording techniques were primitive in comparison to those espoused by more sophisticated rivals stood him in very poor stead with regard to posterity. The rescued Mozart sonata tapes issued on DG are unbelievably bad in terms of recorded technical quality; likewise the Debussy Preludes and Bach recordings of the late 60s and early 70s. 

From the 1950s on Gulda cultivated an interest in jazz, writing several songs and instrumental pieces, and at times combining jazz and classical music in his concerts. In 1956, he performed at Birdland in New York City and at the Newport Jazz Festival. He organized the International Competition for Modern Jazz in 1966, and he established the International Musikforum, a school for students who wanted to learn improvisation, in Ossiach, Austria, in 1968. He once said: "There can be no guarantee that I will become a great jazz musician, but at least I shall know that I am doing the right thing. I don't want to fall into the routine of the modern concert pianist's life, nor do I want to ride the cheap triumphs of the Baroque bandwagon." In jazz, he found "the rhythmic drive, the risk, the absolute contrast to the pale, academic approach I had been taught." He also took up playing the baritone saxophone.

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18. Preludium & Fuge giss-moll BWV 887 - Angela Hewitt, klaver

She played Bach. I do not know the names of the pieces, but I recognized the stiff ceremonial of the frenchified little German courts and the sober, thrifty comfort of the burghers, and the dancing on the village green, the green trees that looked like Christmas trees, and the sunlight on the wide German country, and a tender cosiness; and in my nostrils there was a warm scent of the soil and I was conscious of a sturdy strength that seemed to have its roots deep in mother earth, and of an elemental power that was timeless and had no home in space.

- W. Somerset Maugham (from 'The Alien Corn')

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19. Preludium & Fuge A-dur BWV 888 - Glenn Gould, klaver

I think that if I were required to spend the rest of my life on a desert island, and to listen to or play the music of any one composer during all that time, that composer would almost certainly be Bach. I really can't think of any other music which is so all-encompassing, which moves me so deeply and so consistently, and which, to use a rather imprecise word, is valuable beyond all of its skill and brilliance for something more meaningful than that - its humanity.

- Glenn Gould

20. Preludium & Fuge a-moll BWV 889 - Angela Hewitt, klaver

The day my mother died, I was playing the 48 Preludes and Fugues (The Well-Tempered Clavier), which is a three-hour concert. That was in London's biggest hall, the Royal Festival Hall.

It was a huge challenge for me because I had to keep my concentration going-and stay absolutely calm. Yet it was, of course, a very moving performance. The fact that Bach's music gives you such great comfort and has such immense beauty helped immeasurably. I get the shivers just talking about it.

Everything you experience in life as an artist goes into your music. And in music, you find everything you need.

- Angela Hewitt

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21. Preludium & Fuge B-dur BWV 890 - András Schiff, klaver

Bach's music is very important for me; it is the most important for my life. The entire music literature following Bach-all music intrigues and interests me, and everything I treasure in music comes from Bach. If a composer has no relationship to Bach, then, it doesn't really interest me at all. Bach is an entire musical, yet human, worldview. Here, the music must be spiritual, not physical. It can make me happy, and sustain me, but it is much more. It is the content of Bach's music that intrigues me so.

- András Schiff

22. Preludium & Fuge b-moll BWV 891 - Glenn Gould, klaver

There is a craft and a power in listening.

- Glenn Gould

23. Preludium & Fuge H-dur BWV 892 - Rebecca Pechefsky, cembalo

When I think of Bach´s music, I have the feeling that God owes Bach a lot. Without him many humans wouldn´t know that God is existing.

- Hélène Grimaud

Rebecca Pechefsky plays the Prelude and Fugue in B Major, BWV 892, from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book Two. This video was made during the audio recording sessions for her recording of the entire WTC2, available now on Quill Classics (QC 1013-2). 

Double-manual harpsichord by Yves Beaupré, 2010 

Recorded July 2016 at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Marine Park, Brooklyn.

24. Preludium & Fuge h-moll BWV 893 - András Schiff, klaver

His music is just timeless

- Sting

Rick Beato: Sting if you were able to meet one musician go back in time and hear one musician play?

Sting: That would be JS Bach for both of us (...and Domenic Miller). I bet you know we sit at his feets every day. We play a bit of Bach every day, a bit of the cello suites, a bit of the partitas. You wouldn't want to hear what we do, but we´re learning the whole time. Absolutely, so we´re already sitting at his feet. He´s, it´s all out there on the page