The 48 on piano

Floral design

Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier (Complete)
Cédric Pescia piano
263:18 (4 CDs in a card box)
LDV38.1

Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier
Alexandra Papastefanou piano
263:11 (4 CDs)
FHR65J

Of these two versions of The Well-Tempered Clavier played on a modern grand piano, that by Cédric Pescia seems to me the more interesting. His background includes studying harpsichord and clavichord, spending a year in the company of the Bach Cantatas, and while deciding to play the 48 on a Steinway D of the 1980s, used also by Andreas Schiff, he has had it prepared in unequal temperament – even if we are not told exactly which.

In the extended interview with Pescia that comprises the booklet (and is in French, English, Japanese and German) he declared that it is the piano above all thatmakes this music sing and dance, two qualities he counts as essential forunderstanding Bach.

This is a thoughtful and well-prepared account, in comparison with which Papastefanou suffers. Her playing is more in the tradition of those who constantly feel theneed to ‘bring out’ the fugue subject whenever it occurs in case we should failto notice it. I find it rather wearisome. But all Bach, however played and onwhatever played, is a treat.

And would any reader of the EMR be interested in a set of the 48 played on a piano? Well, they might well be – and if so they should listen to Pescia as well as some of the better-known performers. They would be in for a welcome surprise. I found his playing attentive, engaging and musical.

David Stancliffe