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Thread: Favorite Bach Piano Recordings

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    Senior Member Sofronitsky's Avatar
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    Default Favorite Bach Piano Recordings

    Hey guys. I'm trying to select the right CDs for Bach's Well Tempered Clavier (I, II), his Partitas and his Piano Concertos.

    If you could post your favorite recording of one or all of those 3 I'd really appreciate it!

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    Senior Member Webernite's Avatar
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    I find Gould's Well-Tempered Clavier a bit self-indulgent and dry, but it's worth hearing, as with all his recordings. His Partitas and keyboard concertos are much better, although he didn't record the sixth concerto.

    Richter played the Well-Tempered Clavier, but the sound quality is very low on some CDs. I'm not sure what the story behind that is. You probably can get a recording of him playing it in reasonable sound quality, but I have no idea what CD that would be on. Personally, I like Gulda's controversial recording (here's a sample); it's very dry and percussive, the counterpoint is clear, but it's more musical than Gould's. There are dozens of more recent recordings, of which Schiff's is probably the most well-known. Ashkenazy's is surprisingly good from what I've heard of it. The only really famous historical recording is Edwin Fischer's, from the 30s.

    Perahia's Partitas are fine as a reference recording, in my opinion. That said, he hasn't recorded the French Overture (BWV 831), which is basically an extra-long partita, so if you want to hear that you'll have to try someone else as well, maybe Koroliov.

    The keyboard concertos aren't really suited to the piano. You could try Gould's or Perahia's, but I suggest you get a harpsichord recording instead. Even people who hate the harpsichord tend to be okay with it when it's used in a concerto rather than as a solo instrument. Trevor Pinnock's recording is pretty widely liked.
    Last edited by Webernite; Jun-27-2011 at 23:03.

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    GKC
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    For WTC (both books):
    Andras Schiff on London 414 388-2 and 417 236-2
    or
    Angela Hewitt on Hyperion CDA67741/4

    GKC

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    Senior Member TxllxT's Avatar
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    This one (BMG 1970/1973) is recorded satifyingly and played, well as only Richter can play...
    Pestouille and ptr like this.

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    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
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    Wohltemperiertes: Richter + Feinberg
    ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpQJxvhUzxg )
    Partitas: Joao Carlos Martins + Anderszewski
    Concerti: Gould + Gavrilov
    Last edited by joen_cph; Jun-27-2011 at 23:32.

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    Air
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    Though it's not the prevailing opinion nowadays (with the booming HIP movement and all), I still find Bach played on the pianoforte wondrous, emotionally satisfying and fully in character.

    The Well-Tempered Clavier is one of my absolute favorite works, and though my personal most cherished experiences with the 48 are on my own Kawaii piano (I must have a daily dose of WTC in order to survive) I do listen to many versions of these works, each which speak to me in a very unique way.

    I would not count off Glenn when it comes to anything by Bach. Though he's not my favorite, his articulation and sense of rhythm is something to behold. It was Gould who revolutionized Bach by adding the staccatos and accents, breaking the 'straight' themes and counter-themes that the world were so accustomed too.

    My personal favorite remains with the old school, particularly Samuel Feinberg and Edwin Fischer, already mentioned here. Feinberg was an eccentric who like Gould, had an uncanny wit for making each Prelude and Fugue 'come alive'. His sonorous tone brings the absolute best out of Bach's counterpoint and that's what matters to me most - making music out of Bach, not concerning oneself with pedantry. Edwin Fischer is a very close second to me because of his awesome sense of form and subtle poetics, and Richer is very likely my third choice along with Gould.

    The other Bach works I'm nowhere near as familiar with - especially the Goldbergs, which I unfortunately still haven't warmed to. For the English Suites, my next most listened to Bach, I think Perahia is the jewel. I really like the Partitas for piano too - especially the 6th and last - Gould is magnificent from what I've heard so far.

    There are also many lesser known works that I adore. The Toccatas perhaps being the most well known - the c minor by Argerich is in a really jazzy, unique style which only she can bring to the Bach plate. Also there is the e minor - served very well by Glenn, again. The fugue is monstrous, and I had to play it once upon a time.

    A cool piece is the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, and for this I would definitely resort to Stalin's favorite pianist and one of Richter's inspirations, Maria Yudina, who by the way is quite the killer for any Bach she plays. Fantasia in a - Richter. Inventions - Gould. Italian Concerto and French Suites - undecided. I should probably listen to these some more.

    Finally, the concerti. I'll go with Webernite here and say that for baroque ensembles and their timbre I much prefer the harpsichord - Pinnock, Leonhardt, and those guys. For piano, I'm only really familiar with Gould, and you can't really go wrong with him. I remember that when I first came to love Bach's concertos, it was Gould's BWV 1052 that I listened to the most, on video, which was really inspirational. When it comes down to it, I probably still have a bit of a soft spot for that recording.
    Last edited by Air; Jun-28-2011 at 07:22.
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    Senior Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    The WTC set I own is by Jörg Demus - recorded in 1970-71 and re-issued. I managed to download the set in 2002 or so, when Mr. Demus provided the tracks on the "original" MP3.COM. You will find links to the releases on Bach-Cantatas:
    WTC 1 http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NVD/BWV846-869-Rec3.htm
    WTC 2 http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NVD/BWV870-893-Rec4.htm

    The site provides a very comprehensive overview of the WTC discography.

    If you follow my posts and blog, you know I'm a big Glenn Gould fan, but my favourite Bach recording is one by Angela Hewitt - a recording she made after winning the (only) Glenn Gould International Piano competition in 1984 (I believe). “Bach: English Suite No. 6, BWV 811 / 4 Duets, BWV 802-805 / Italian Concerto, BWV 971 / Toccata, BWV 911”

    http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/...&album_group=3

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    As a Bach fanatic I have several recordings of each of these works. As has been suggested, I would never count Glen Gould out when it comes to Bach... although for a first choice perhaps I'd leave Gould for the Goldberg Variations. Richter's recordings are just as unique... quite Romantic... and again I wouldn't make them a first choice. Personally, for the WTC I'd go with Angela Hewitt recording from 1998/99 or that of Andreas Schiff. For the WTC on Harpsichord there's the historic Wanda Landowska recordings (although these have a bit too much background noise). I quite like Peter Watchorn's recent recordings... and then there's the great version by Ralph Kirkpatrick on clavichord.

    With the partitas I would suggest you can't go wrong with Hewitt, Schiff, or Murray Perhia. If you are not the obsessed Bach fanatic such as myself who must have them all, go with Hewitt for the WTC, Schiff for the partitas, and Perahia for the keyboard concertos.

    Seriously, Perahia would be my clear first choice for the keyboard concertos. For around $6 each for the two volumes through Amazon Marketplace dealers, the price for Perahia can't be beat... and the quality is second to none. Personally, I found these eye-opening... the works that really turned me on to Perahia.

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    I greatly enjoy the recordings of Olli Mustonen where he mixes Bach's WTC with Shostakvich's preludes & fugues, Op. 87. Refreshing concept, very original interpretations. These are two 2-CD sets. The first one (on RCA) is OOP, but can be found relatively easily.





    I am a fan of Richter, but I don't think his RCA recordings of WTC are really that good.

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    wtc - hewitt (p), gilbert (h)

    partitas - perahia (p), pinnock (h)

    keyboard concertos - perahia (p) this set is one of the best things in life for me, kipnis/munchinger (h)

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    Senior Member Amfibius's Avatar
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    Bach WTK ... my favourite subject

    I just had a look at my collection. Right now I have:

    - Glenn Gould
    - Wanda Landowska
    - Andras Schiff
    - Angela Hewitt
    - Angela Hewitt 2008
    - Edwin Fischer
    - Gustav Leonhardt
    - Roger Woodward

    Before I go on, I should state my biases: I prefer the performer to be more Bach than himself. No room for self-indulgence here. This immediately strikes Gould off my list of favourites - I can not stand his dry, staccato tone. Some performers make the WTK sound like a "set" (e.g. the earlier Hewitt, Leonhardt), and some emphasize the individual differences (e.g. the later Hewitt, Richter). I also have less tolerance for taking liberties with the music - e.g. leaving out the ornamentation (Fischer) or unusual phrasing (Landowska).

    My favourite tends to wander between Hewitt 2008, Leonhardt, and Richter. All the others can be dismissed for one reason or another - can't stand Gould, can't stand Landowska's Pleyel harpsichord, the earlier Hewitt is somewhat boring, Woodward has no character, and the sound quality of the Fischer is very poor.

    The Richter first. I have bought this set four times - the first time was in 1992. I misplaced it then bought another. Gave it away as a gift, then bought another. Scratched one of the discs badly, then bought my fourth. It is five years now and still going strong! The reason I love this set is Richter's characteristic hypnotic sound. Each piece emphasizes their differences - Richter clearly put a lot of thought into how the pieces should be played. Amazing, considering his wide repertoire. The C-major prelude is dreamlike, while the following prelude in C-minor is aggressive and warlike.

    The Leonhardt is the complete opposite of Richter. Leonhardt's harpsichord is crystal-clear, and he plays with all the restraint of a gentleman. He imbues the work with a certain wisdom and a zen-like inner peace. When you get tired of all the angst of Mahler and Wagner, putting the Leonhardt on is tremendously calming. As a bonus, the sound quality of this disc is stonkingly good - it is demonstration disc material. I love it.

    The 2008 Hewitt is probably the safest choice of my 3 favourites. The sound quality is very good, she has a more traditional approach than Richter, and her piano is less likely to polarize than Leonhardt's harpsichord. She has noticably matured since her earlier recording, with fresh insights.

    Some might think the Hewitt sounds boring, given that she seems to have put so little of her own personality into the recording. But I think that is a good thing. She serves Bach, not herself.

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    Senior Member kv466's Avatar
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    And the correct answer for all of the above is: Glenn Gould
    Vaneyes and Taggart like this.

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    Senior Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    I love Gould, as you all know, and his readings of the Bach concerti is, indeed, second to none. I hesitate to call them authoritative, though they did appear early enough in his discography to be less tainted with the idiosyncracies we associate with the older, more reclusive Gould.

    I own a recording of three of the Bach concerti by Angela Hewitt and the the-called CBC Vancouver Orchestra with Mario Bernardi conducting. Not great, but not bad.

    I also have the complete set by Christophe Rousset and the AAM with Hiogwood conducting. Needs a bit getting used to (harpsichord and authentic style), but not too shabby.

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    Junior Member dafnis's Avatar
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    WTC - Tureck (DG, superb!), Hewitt
    Partitas - Perahia
    Concertos - Perahia

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    Default Yuji Takahasi not mentioned

    Quote Originally Posted by dafnis View Post
    WTC - Tureck (DG, superb!), Hewitt
    Partitas - Perahia
    Concertos - Perahia
    I'm surprised nobody mentioned wonderfully fresh readings of the concertos by Yuji Takahashi (this is the correct spelling, I misspelled it in the subj). After having heard so many others, I was pleasantly impressed by his interpretation. It stands out. Some may critisize him saying that there is too much of Yuji and less of Bach but I don't care. He also recorded Goldberg Vars., Partitas, Inventions, AoF (Japanese release of 8 CD's that still can be found on inet) but I haven't listened to them yet.

    I like Richters's WTC, have yet to listen to Feinberg's, soon. I like Gould's too.
    Last edited by rgolubev; Feb-23-2012 at 02:14.

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