BRITISH pianist Peter Hill is better-known for his championship of contemporary music, but as this delightful presentation of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II reveals, he has an equal penchant for earlier styles. Hill's approach is to capture the engaging balance between the crisp clarity of the music and its innate lyrical soul. He makes no apologies for the expressive potential of the piano, but simply uses that to harness the universality of the music, from its pre-echoes of early classicism to sparks of undeniable romantic mood-painting. Never once, though, does it sell out Bach's stylistic integrity.
Peter Hill's eminence as a Messiaen scholar and as an outstanding interpreter of his piano music has tended to overshadow his qualities as a pianist in a much wider range of repertoire. But JS Bach is also a special interest of Hill's, and this account of the less often performed half of the 48 Preludes and Fugues underlines what a fine and typically unflashy pianist he is. Every performance here is quite audibly the product of careful consideration; every musical decision, whether over tempi, phrasing, or dynamics, seems utterly logical. Yet there's nothing didactic about the results, just a wonderfully natural unfolding of these pieces, in which Hill is never ashamed to make full use of the tonal resources of the modern piano. The crystalline quality of his quiet playing is a regular pleasure. With luck this is the first in a series of Bach recordings from Hill, and let's hope Book I of the 48 follows soon.