J.S. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I (2 CDs)

Peter Hill’s recording of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II wowed critics across the board in January 2012, prompting The Guardian to write: ‘With luck this is the first in a series of Bach recordings from Hill, and let’s hope Book I of the “48” follows soon.’

Indeed, throughout 2012 Hill was preparing Book I. His performances of Bach’s first volume of masterpieces exhibit all the qualities that were identified by reviewers of Hill’s previous traversal – ‘warmth, clarity and insight’ (Classical Music Magazine, Editor’s Choice), ‘vital communication’ (HiFi Critic), ‘impeccable’ (BBC Radio 3 CD Review, Disc of the Week), ‘shimmering’ (BBC Music Magazine), ‘liquescent’ (International Record Review).

"Hill establishes his voice from the outset with fluid, velvet-toned playing and a predominantly introspective, rather than showy approach...In short, these are exquisitely poetic and, above all, painterly accounts."

"what emerges so clearly again in Hill's wonderfully thoughtful, lucid performances is the sheer range of these pieces, the myriad ways in which Bach varied the preludes to incorporate so many distinctive 18th-century musical forms, from dances to studies, arias to improvisations. Hill characterises every one of them vividly and individually"

"Bach’s music tests the pianist in many ways, but one of the most telling is that it asks how much or how little the performer should exert ego. Hill...gets the balance just about right in an intimate account of the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier that nevertheless oozes authority"

"Hill plays Bach as if in one-to-one communion with the composer, while at the same time sharing it with you, the listener...It confides and reveals the genius of the composer rather than the brilliant musicianship of the performer, while at the same time keeping the notes singing and alive, the rhythms sprightly and filled with their essential line-fuelled but oft-restrained Baroque energy"

"Hill shows a particular sensitivity to the kind of touch required to play this music on the harpsichord...His restraint and intellectual approach throughout renders the performance wholly satisfying...Thank goodness we have Hill’s full account now, however, for it will provide a fantastic resource to delve into as well as many hours of enjoyable listening"

"utterly exquisite...Peter Hill has struck gold again...What Hill does is to capture the inner workings of Bach’s richly woven textures with clear-cut intellectual rigour, distributing the weight of piano tone to articulate every critical seam,yet somehow coupling that with a musicality so subtle and so teasingly flexible, there is never once a sense of academic dryness in the interpretations."

"This is a delightful collection of discs and thoroughly captivating"

Producer: Paul Baxter
Recording venue: University Concert Hall, Cardiff
Recording dates: 10-12 July & 17-18 December 2012
Physical format: Jewel case (slimline double)
Number of discs: 2
Number of tracks: 48
Release date: 3 June 2013
Catalogue No: DCD34126
Total playing time: 2:01:18

Record Review - Record of the Week

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