- The Well-Tempered Clavier (24), collection of preludes & fugues, Book I, BWV 846-869 (BC L80-103)
Daniel Barenboim takes to Bach’s great First Book of The Well-Tempered Clavier like a virtuoso of the old school. Liberal applications of the sustain pedal, relaxed tempos, strong dynamic contrasts, and subtle coloration mark Barenboim’s playing, and he aims in each of Bach’s 48 epigrammatic Preludes and Fugues to find a unique character, an individual world of drama -- a natural enough stance for a pianist who has spent so much of his career directing orchestras and leading opera productions. He maintains dramatic tension by favoring harmony over clarity of counterpoint, though the melodic line is never out of view, and his playing flows as fluently as in his salad days. Listen, for instance, to the delicate haze of sound he creates in the mournful C-sharp Minor Prelude, and then the way he molds the following Fugue into a grand, monumental statement, as profound as anything from Beethoven’s pen. Next sample the D Major Prelude and Fugue for a dose of nimble charm, bolstered by an almost orchestral sense of scale and sonority. Those who prefer their Bach played with the contrapuntal transparency of a Schiff or Gould, much less the tonal purity of a harpsichord, may want to take a pass. Those who take their Bach with a rich helping of Romantic expression will love this.