35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Red-Blooded Bach by a Master,
This review is from: Well-Tempered Clavier, The (Richter) (Audio CD)
A very generous friend gave me this set several years ago and I will be forever in her debt. I had never considered buying Richter playing Bach. For me he simply didn't seem to come out of the right tradition to play the Master of Leipzig. But I was mistaken, completely mistaken. This set of the WTC has become one of my most treasured possessions. For months it was in my car - a perfect way to listen to the Preludes and Fugues, a few at a time while driving short distances around town - and by now these performances are burned into my aural memory, as if they had always been there. There is such a feeling of inevitability about Richter's playing that I now cannot imagine them played any other way. Well, that's not entirely true, but close. Unlike Huibert Jonkers, whose review was posted here some months ago, I was a Glenn Gould groupie who thought his way with Bach was the best way. And though I still admire Gould, I must say that Richter has converted me. It's hard to put one's finger on what it is about Richter's playing except that it is so straightforward and full of good ol' artery-clogging cholesterol and yet so nuanced and highlighted, that it is impossible to resist. It's Romantic, I guess, and that's totally out of fashion these days. But I don't care about that. In fact, as an old pianist who has played the WTC at the keyboard for nigh on sixty years, I continue to have a hard time listening to WTC on the harpsichord. I suspect I'm not alone in that. We've been swept along in recent years by the 'historically-informed performance' folks and yet there are some of us who are not entirely convinced that the old-fashioned way with Bach isn't the best. Richter certainly fits in the 'old-fashioned' camp and that's fine with me.
Others have written here about individual details of these performances and I have little to add there. I am, like others, struck by Richter's wide dynamics and sometimes extreme tempi. For instance, the second prelude in WTC I goes faster than I've ever heard it and it is all the more exciting as a result. The overall shape of the performances, though, reveal a penetrating intellect and flawless technique put at the service of the music, granted Richter's own conception of the music, but who's to say that's not what Bach would have wanted?
I urgently recommend this box, especially since it is so attractively priced.