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Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier
     

Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier

by Arthur Loesser
 
Pianist Arthur Loesser was the brother of Broadway composer Frank Loesser ("Guys and Dolls"), and he once referred to himself as the Evil of Two Loessers. He had a remarkable career that included a concert debut in Berlin before the Great War; a paleontology degree; mastery of the Japanese language and a post-World War II stint as a U.S.

Overview

Pianist Arthur Loesser was the brother of Broadway composer Frank Loesser ("Guys and Dolls"), and he once referred to himself as the Evil of Two Loessers. He had a remarkable career that included a concert debut in Berlin before the Great War; a paleontology degree; mastery of the Japanese language and a post-World War II stint as a U.S. agent in Japan; authorship of the still fabulously readable book Men, Women, and Pianos; long residence as a teacher and performer in Cleveland, OH; and a deep preoccupation with the question of how to play Bach on a modern piano, how to stay true to the spirit of his music at a time before most performers bothered to worry about the question at all. This complete traversal of both books of Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier," recorded in 1964, gives an example of his conclusions. His playing may be seen as representative of a frame of mind that also produced Glenn Gould -- one that approached Bach (and still does) on his own terms rather than viewing him as a proto-Romantic, but rejected not only the harpsichord but an attempt to make the piano sound like a harpsichord in favor of, as Loesser himself puts it in a very nice essay reproduced in full in the booklet, "translating" Bach's language into pianistic terms. Although he's a good deal less extreme, Loesser does some of what Gould does, clarifying lines with sharp, detailed articulation and an almost harsh sound. His tempi are not as impetuous as Gould's, and he does, in the end, retain more of the old Romantic approach. He uses a lot of pedal, and the place where most modern listeners part company with Loesser is in the stretti of the fugues, which he turns into booming perorations that Bach would have found grotesque; they are intellectual flourishes. In general there is an interpenetration of affect and architecture that does not sit comfortably within the Baroque universe of binary oppositions. But there is a fine sense for the rhythmic verve of Bach, and an X-factor sense of struggling with the immensity of the music that is common to all great Bach performances. This is in all a compelling historical reissue of music by a performer who is both intriguing and obscure, and that is what historical reissues are all about. The recordings were perhaps privately made originally; it would have been good to know more about them, and the sound is subpar for 1964.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/13/2007
Label:
Doremi Records
UPC:
0723721330859
catalogNumber:
7893

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. The Well-Tempered Clavier (24), collection of preludes & fugues, Book I, BWV 846-869 (BC L80-103)
  2. The Well-Tempered Clavier (24), collection of preludes & fugues, Book II, BWV 870-893 (BC L104-127)

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