There exist of these works at least five extraordinary recordings, beginning in more or less chronological order, with those of Jorg Demus, followed by two brilliantly if acoustically flawed Tureck sets (compromised by tape hiss amounting to a kind of light rain), Richter (technically mind-boggling, if merely that), Angela Hewitt, perhaps the modern critical favorite, and rightly so, and now those of Barenboim. Like many other listeners, I was less impressed initially than I have come to be after repeated hearings. The most precise analogue for Barenboim's conception here is that of Gilels in his initially jarring, and then consumingly interesting Scarlatti recordings, where all the tonal resources of the modern piano are put at the disposal of a music written for an instrument whose decay time is minimal. Barenboim's astonishing lyricism, color, tonal beauty, intelligence, conviction, focus are almost always in evidence here. The "vulgarity" attributed to him in another review must be accounted to the ear of the beholder, as few performers are more respectful of the uncompromising harmonic complexity of this music than Barenboim: dissonances required by the texture of the writing are given their full weight and importance. Barenboim's palette being richer than that of some orchestras, it cannout be accounted anything but a blessing, if in some passages a mixed one, that we are as much aware of the performer as the performed, but I would think it a great mistake on the part of anyone desirous a complete collection of the available WTC's to pass over this one. It is brilliant and convincing, particularly if you listen with a score on your knee.
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