- The Well-Tempered Clavier (48), collection of preludes & fugues in 2 Books, BWV 846-893 (BC L80-127)
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In modern performances of J.S. Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier," the piano is heard most often, due to its ubiquity and familiarity, and it is followed in frequency by the harpsichord, particularly in renditions based on Baroque period practices. Yet the organ is a viable alternative, as Frédéric Desenclos brilliantly demonstrates in this revelatory four-CD box set from Alpha. Because the term clavier can be applied to any keyboard instrument, there's no musical reason why the "WTC" shouldn't be heard this way. Desenclos' controlled playing and use of appropriate registration make a compelling case for organ performance, and he shows that Bach's transparent counterpoint works as naturally here as it does in the other preludes and fugues that were specifically composed for organ. Furthermore, there are internal connections and similarities between several of the preludes and fugues and other compositions in the Clavier Übung and the Orgelbüchlein, suggesting the possibility that Bach developed some ideas in the "WTC" at the organ, his primary instrument. While this is speculation, there is no doubt that Desenclos does a superb job of arranging the music in the spirit of Bach's transcriptions, playing them with great clarity and confidence. Organ fans will appreciate this set the most, but others should give it a hearing to appreciate the excellent performances.