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4.6 out of 5 stars14
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 23 March 2013
For reference I own many recordings of this master work: the Fisher version, Gould's, Richter's, Angela Hewitt's, Pollini's (Book 1), a harpsichord version of Book 1 and one I won't bother mentioning.

I think this may well be my favourite or at least up there with Richter and Gould. Unlike the latter two, however, Schiff's new recording is less resolved, more open-ended and in its ultra-delicate and deliberate playing forces one oddly to pay more attention to the notes rather than revel in the interpretative genius of say, a Sviatoslav Richter.

In addition the tempoes are often slower so allow for a more reflective and concentrated experience; I think what wins me over with Schiff is that the recording is translucent and immediate, like Gould, but without the x-ray quality and manneristic reading of Gould's classic reading. To put it in layman's terms, it is far more "chilled".

It is also far less resolved. The pieces unfold before one's ears without having been sauced out to death at the outset so one listens to them develop not having a clear idea how they will develop, allowing for a more open-ended and open-minded experience.

I strongly recommend this set which is for me almost definitive along with Richard Goode's cycle of the complete Beethoven sonatas.

Four stars and a half to five stars.
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on 7 October 2012
This recording is simply marvellous. I'd heard an exert on the radio and on a whim checked it out on Amazon. Download was about half the price of the CD set, and crucially in the heat of the moment, significantly quicker! So I downloaded it, and was not disappointed. Bach as instant gratification? You bet. Within about 15 minutes I knew I'd done the right thing, and had a sublime Saturday morning with the Well-Tempered Clavier. Anyone who doesn't already own a version of this may be surprised by the fact that there is yards and yards of music here. Every part of it is fascinating in its own right and I have no doubt that I will be rewarded by these MP3s for years to come. I got my money's worth the day I bought it, so to give it less than five stars would just be wrong. My old harpsichord disks will be sitting on the shelf for a long time, if not forever, utterly eclipsed by Schiff. If you're not sure, thinking "oh, fifteen quid sound a lot" then get over it and click "buy". You will thank yourself.

However, reading the page for the CD set, reviews elsewhere, and indeed the radio coverage which got me interested in the first place I have to wonder how much we're missing with the download. The liner notes (quoted in Amazon's own text) sound fascinating: for example, part of the joy of Schiff's playing here is the fairly prim style without use of pedals. Clearly, it works with this piece, but as a non-pianist I would never have understood this had I not read about it. My point is: how much are we missing? CDs naturally cost more; but if we're talking four disks, a plastic box and a paragraph about pedals then it's an easy choice. But how much more is there? Amazon do not give MP3 customers access to any graphics or text beyond the absolute basics (as far as I can tell) so it is a total, fairly extreme form of this choice. If the background materials matter to you you might want to gamble a few pounds more and get the CD set. To be honest the music would justify the higher price on its own, so either way if you've read this far you need to be buying this item.
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on 10 September 2012
This is really remarkable. I thought Andras Schiff's recording of the Well tempered on Decca was excellent. This surpasses even that benchmark recording. ECM's recording too is fantastic. Schiff is a born Bach player whereas his Beethoven though of a high standard is uneven. In this recording, he makes Bach's music really sing. But he does not take agogic liberties as Angela Hewitt does in her second recording of the Well tempered.
I feel I am hearing the music afresh. This set is indispensable and is likely to set the bar for many years. There is hope yet for the human species if it can produce music and recordings of this quality.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 September 2013
András Schiff recorded most of Bach's keyboard works in the 1980s, and has recently made a number of new recordings for ECM. This box set of the two books of the Well-Tempered Clavier is his latest such release, and shows Schiff as a much more mature pianist. Making a point of using the pedal as little as possible, Schiff delineates all the contrapuntal lines in the fugues carefully, and plays the preludes with zest and brio. In some ways, Schiff plays a Gouldian style here; hardly any legato, and a very percussive style.

But Schiff doesn't fall into Gould's excesses, presenting each prelude and fugue as a carefully polished gem. Not using the sustaining pedal helps give this impression of separation between notes - as one hears more on a harpsichord - which highlights the rhythms of the pieces. His ornamentation is subtle and limited, but one gets the feeling that it is just right.

Over time, listening through these four discs, I found that Schiff's style - which at first seemed just a bit jarring - made more and more sense. The music here can be lively or pensive, and Schiff takes all of its moods and provides an approach that stands on its own. Comparing it with pianists who use the pedal show a very large difference, but comparing it with harpsichord recordings offers more similarities than differences, in spite of the very different sounds of the instruments.

The recording is excellent; the piano sounds rich and full, with no reverb to mar the details, or to drown out the subtleties of the counterpoint.

This is a fine recording of Bach's great preludes and fugues, one that even those hesitant to listen to the work on modern piano should seek out.
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on 8 February 2013
Beautiful playing, warm, clear sound. This even surpasses Schiff's earlier Decca recordings of the same material. The music is controlled and often sparse but there's warmth as well as restraint. All of life is here.
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on 11 January 2013
Even the most complex piece seems transparent, translucent in the way it was no doubt meant to be by the composer. This simply is an extremely beautiful recording!
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on 11 December 2012
I have his first recording of the 48. This is even better, with good brisk pace when needed and subltlety of interpretation. Great variation and range.
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VINE VOICEon 20 October 2013
This is a lovely set from Andras Schiff and ECM. Re-recording Bach's masterpiece of keyboard exploration, there is a luminous, flowing quality to the interpretations, and Schiff has combined his usual technical excellence with a lightness of new understanding and reflection he now brings to his playing.

The Decca set from the 1980s is still a fine recording, but there are certainly subtle differences here as the older Schiff re-engages with a work he clearly knows inside out.

The recording quality is first rate, as you would expect from ECM. In the age of the download, this subtle, under-stated box set of four CDs and an interesting, accessible set of liner notes on how the pieces may be interpreted, proves the superiority of the physical medium. An elegant addition to any collection, and something to savour over and over again.
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on 15 January 2016
Replaced the first Hewitt version (poor recording) based on acquisition of the same pianist's Goldberg variations. Really excellent recording, beautifully played - see videos on youtube. Perhaps not for everyone, but first choice for me. One annoyance, the box set is slightly larger than the usual CD form & will not fit in the CD cabinet !
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on 27 January 2013
Excellent and skilled performance of these Bach piano works. This is a box of discs to be dipped into and taken to calm the nerves or aid a reflective mood.
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