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This beloved pianist - possibly the most recorded pianist of the last century - is known for his nearly "non-virtuosic" style, where he plays in a lyric manner, emphasizing the composer over technique.

 

He also led the acceptance of the performance of J.S. Bach on the piano - once a controversial artistic statement. 

 

This collection features over 4 hours of glorious solo Bach, played with the touch of one of the great lyric pianists who ever recorded.

 

"THE BEST AVAILABLE RECORDING OF THESE WORKS ON PIANO." --GRAMOPHONE MAGAZINE

 

VLADIMIR FELTSMAN PLAYS BACH

 J.S. Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" is both a massive theoretical exercise and a deeply compelling work of art. It would be hard to imagine any music that has made more of an impression on succeeding generations of composers than "the 48," as the two books of 24 preludes and fugues in every major and minor key have long been abbreviated. --Tim Page

 

"Art of Fugue" is a scripture, and as such, is open ended. As all scriptures, it is pointing towards one source the source of all from where it came and an expression of which it is. All music of Bach is a direct confirmation of this source and a humble offering to it. -Vladimir Feltsman

VLADIMIR FELTSMAN PLAYS BACH

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EXPLORING MUSIC: SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NOT AS OLD

by David White

In Tim Page’s short but conside notes for Vladimir Feltsman’s recording of “The Well-Tempered Clavier” , he makes many strong points about the work itself. He adds a good bit of fun to read fluff about how unassailable The Well-Tempered Clavier has become in the overall canon of music - the passage of time has seemed to only enhance this work’s strength as a true monolithic slab of bedrock musical genius. 

 

My writing has to start with a point he makes in quoting another scholar in the art of Bach’s works - Christoph Wolff. Wolff makes the point that The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II is a well-intentioned but not very successful follow up to the all mighty Book I. Sorry Book II but you’re “Jaws 2” (or Jaws II)...this time it’s personal...or so it seems. Or, in Wolff’s own words “a glorious after-thought” to the stupendous Book I. Ah, the younger brother...the less popular middle child...the poor neglected Book II. And it truly is - there are 60% fewer recordings of Book II than Book I, a damning statistic in the world of Bach recording. A few have carried the rock up the hill - no one has done it twice, by the way, at least in the studio. 

 

And so naturally I suggest this is exactly where you should start if you join MHS, and get a free membership that would allow you to sign up, download this selection for free and then try on this recording for yourself. Let’s start with the obvious - Book II is not Book I. This isn’t Godfather 2 v Godfather 1, (editors note: well...maybe the scenes with DeNiro) or is The Empire Strikes Back better than A New Hope? (editors note: it isn’t) However, I wouldn’t ignore Book II. Even a pianist with the talents of Vladimir Feltsman can’t quite paste over the cracks in Book II, which can seem to plod along, slighly adrift. Certainly your older brother Book I never had those problems, Book II.

 

But 20 years had passed since Book I and Bach had a lot more kids since then, as well as wrote a few Passions and cantatas and organ works, so maybe he just wasn’t feeling it, and he was playing out the string waiting for his retirement pension to kick in.

 

Since we’re in the mood to rewrite how Bach is perceived, I’m going also take a shot and have some pity on old Art of Fugue (or sometimes written as the very controversial Art of The Fugue). Let’s recast this - although this is the kind of work that makes hair stand on end in excitement for about 10 people in the world (10 really cool people, of course).

 

If Bach were in a record label’s office today, there’d be someone like me, suggesting that possible we could spin the narrative on this new work, Art’s Fugue, or whatever, into “Goldberg II: Contrapunctus”, with Contrapunctus being some forsaken creature come back like an avenging Odyssus, ready to wreak havoc on themes everywhere by tearing them apart and putting them back together backwards and sideways...

 

The many contrapunctus that you see in the track listing are simply the theme, and Bach constructs and reconstructs the theme over and over again. And for those who love music on paper, this work has a wow factor that’s hard to deny. For those who listen to music, it’s a LOT less compelling.

 

And a last note on Two Part Inventions -used a million years ago on a TV commercial for Tandy, I’ve always loved these works. But Feltsman dismisses them as childs play...but hey, who doesn’t like a jelly bean every once in a while.

TRACK LISTING

The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I

Prelude in C major, BWV 846 02:22
Fugue in C major, BWV 846 02:22
Prelude in C minor, BWV 847 01:36
Fugue in C minor, BWV 847 01:30
Prelude in C-sharp major, BWV 848 01:20
Fugue in C-sharp major, BWV 848 02:25
Prelude in C-sharp minor, BWV 849 03:37
Fugue in C-sharp minor, BWV 849 05:41
Prelude in D major, BWV 850 01:28
Fugue in D major, BWV 850 01:58
Prelude in D minor, BWV 851 01:39
Fugue in D minor, BWV 851 02:16
Prelude in E-flat major, BWV 852 03:49
Fugue in E-flat major, BWV 852 01:48
Prelude in E-flat minor, BWV 853 04:13
Fugue in D-sharp minor, BWV 853 07:21
Prelude in E major, BWV 854 01:16
Fugue in E major, BWV 854 01:23
Prelude in E minor, BWV 855 02:36
Fugue in E minor, BWV 855 01:17
Prelude in F major, BWV 856 01:05
Fugue in F major, BWV 856 01:21
Prelude in F minor, BWV 857 02:27
Fugue in F minor, BWV 857 05:10
Prelude in F-sharp major, BWV 858 01:37
Fugue in F-sharp major, BWV 858 02:33
Prelude in F-sharp minor, BWV 859 01:02
Fugue in F-sharp minor, BWV 859 03:35
Prelude in G major, BWV 860 00:48
Fugue in G major, BWV 860 02:48
Prelude in G minor, BWV 861 02:36
Fugue in G minor, BWV 861 02:23
Prelude in A-flat major, BWV 862 01:23
Fugue in A-flat major, BWV 862 01:55
Prelude in G-sharp minor, BWV 863 01:37
Fugue in G-sharp minor, BWV 863 03:31
Prelude in A major, BWV 864 01:18
Fugue in A major, BWV 864 02:11
Prelude in A minor, BWV 865 01:06
Fugue in A minor, BWV 865 04:51
Prelude in B-flat major, BWV 866 01:21
Fugue in B-flat major, BWV 866 01:47
Prelude in B-flat minor, BWV 867 03:11
Fugue in B-flat minor, BWV 867 03:45
Prelude in B major, BWV 868 01:05
Fugue in B major, BWV 868 02:17
Prelude in B minor, BWV 869 07:38
Fugue in B minor, BWV 869 09:05

 

 

The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II

 


Prelude in C major, BWV 870 02:44
Fugue in C major, BWV 870 02:01
Prelude in C minor, BWV 871 02:00
Fugue in C minor, BWV 871 02:25
Prelude in C-sharp major, BWV 872 01:59
Fugue in C-sharp major, BWV 872 02:00
Prelude in C-sharp minor, BWV 873 05:36
Fugue in C-sharp minor, BWV 873 02:23
Prelude in D major, BWV 874 03:20
Fugue in D major, BWV 874 03:18
Prelude in D minor, BWV 875 01:33
Fugue in D minor, BWV 875 02:00
Prelude in E-flat major, BWV 876 02:53
Fugue in E-flat major, BWV 876 03:06
Prelude in D-sharp minor, BWV 877 03:33
Fugue in D-sharp minor, BWV 877 04:43
Prelude in E major, BWV 878 05:32
Fugue in E major, BWV 878 03:58
Prelude in E minor, BWV 879 03:30
Fugue in E minor, BWV 879 03:16
Prelude in F major, BWV 880 03:14
Fugue in F major, BWV 880 02:16
Prelude in F minor, BWV 881 05:10
Fugue in F minor, BWV 881 02:03
Prelude in F-sharp major, BWV 882 03:50
Fugue in F-sharp major, BWV 882 02:26
Prelude in F-sharp minor, BWV 883 03:27
Fugue in F-sharp minor, BWV 883 05:20
Prelude in G major, BWV 884 02:28
Fugue in G major, BWV 884 01:28
Prelude in G minor, BWV 885 03:00
Fugue in G minor, BWV 885 03:23
Prelude in A-flat major, BWV 886 04:09
Fugue in A-flat major, BWV 886 03:39
Prelude in G-sharp minor, BWV 887 03:42
Fugue in G-sharp minor, BWV 887 03:20
Prelude in A major, BWV 888 01:57
Fugue in A major, BWV 888 01:59
Prelude in A minor, BWV 889 06:02
Fugue in A minor, BWV 889 01:51
Prelude in B flat major, BWV 890 04:43
Fugue in B flat major, BWV 890 02:19
Prelude in B flat minor, BWV 891 02:39
Fugue in B flat minor, BWV 891 04:22
Prelude in B major, BWV 892 02:35
Fugue in B major, BWV 892 04:43
Prelude in B minor, BWV 893 02:46
Fugue in B minor, BWV 893 02:07

 

 

Two-Part Inventions, BWV 772-786

 

Two-Part Invention in C Major, BWV 772 01:16
Two-Part Invention in C Minor, BWV 773 01:40
Two-Part Invention in D Major, BWV 774 01:13
Two-Part Invention in D Minor, BWV 775 00:55
Two-Part Invention in E-flat Major, BWV 776 01:52
Two-Part Invention in E Minor, BWV 778 03:54
Two-Part Invention in E Major, BWV 777 01:15
Two-Part Invention in F Major, BWV 779 01:01
Two-Part Invention in F Minor, BWV 780 02:02
Two-Part Invention in G Major, BWV 781 01:09
Two-Part Invention in G Minor, BWV 782 01:55
Two-Part Invention in A Major, BWV 783 01:22
Two-Part Invention in A Minor, BWV 784 01:07

Two-Part Invention in B-flat Major, BWV 785 01:22
Two-Part Invention in B Minor, BWV 786 01:26

 

 

Art Of Fugue, BWV 1080

 

Contrapunctus No. 1 05:02
Contrapunctus No. 2 02:29
Contrapunctus No. 3 03:22
Contrapunctus No. 4 02:53
Contrapunctus No. 12 Canon all'Ottova 02:14
Contrapunctus No. 5 03:40
Contrapunctus No. 6 in Stile francese 05:49
Contrapunctus No. 7 per Augmentionem et Diminutionem 03:05
Contrapunctus No. 13 Canon all'decima in Contrapunto alla Quinta 02:39
Contrapunctus No. 8 05:51
Contrapunctus No. 9 alla Duodecma 02:34
Contrapunctus No. 10 alla Decima 05:23
Contrapunctus No. 11 05:38
Contrapunctus No. 15 Canon per Augmentionem in Contrano Mota 06:37
Contrapunctus No. 14 Canon alla Decima Contrapunto alla Terza 04:46
Contrapunctus No. 17a Rectus 04:38
Contrapunctus No. 17b Inversus. Alio modo Fuga a 2 Clav 04:42
Contrapunctus No. 16a Rectus 02:22
Contrapunctus 16B Inversus 02:26
Contrapunctus No. 18 Fuga a tre soggetti 13:03
Pause 00:55
Contrapunctus No. 13a Inversus. Alio modo Fuga a 2 Clav 02:22
Contrapunctus No. 13b Rectus. Alio modo Fuga a 2 Clav 02:24

OUR REVIEW

Six hours of Bach? A year's worth, is more like it. But this combination of some of Bach's most profound and difficult music with some of his most alluring (after all, The Well Tempered Clavier starts with Bach's "greatest hit") is like a museum of music. And Feltsman impresses with increased listens - at first, it all seems no big fuss, but his lack of splashy attack becomes the story. It's all Bach, and performed by an artist of considerable artistic depth. --David White

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SOUND SAMPLES

PRELUDE IN C MAJOR, BWV 846

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TWO PART INVENTION IN E MINOR, BWV 778

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ART OF FUGUE, BWV 1080, CONTRAPUNCTUS NO. 12

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LINER NOTES

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