Johann Sebastian BACH:
the Well-Tempered Clavier Books I and II.

MALCOLM HAMILTON, Wittmayer harpsichord


Also available as 4 regular CDs.

In 1691 the organist Andreas Werckmeister proposed the tuning system of equal temperament, dividing the octave into twelve equal intervals. This was to supersede once and for all the older tuning system, which was "in tune" for certain frequently-used scales only. Bach had himself always advocated equal temperament, and tuned his own keyboard instruments on this system. In 1722 he completed a collection of 24 preludes and fugues in all major and minor keys, which he called "The Well-tempered Clavier". He was to write another 24 some twenty years later, making the present total of 48.

Many of these 48 Preludes and Fugues go back to earlier versions, composed for example, for Anna Magdelina or Wilhelm Friedemann. Indeed work on the 48 spans almost the whole of Bach's working life. Certainly the 48 preludes and the 48 fugues go far beyond the mere illustration of well-tempered tuning, to become an almost complete study of the musical possibilities in keyboard preludes and fugues. It is little wonder that the fugues especially have formed the artistic basis for numerous counterpoint textbooks.

In this recording Malcolm Hamilton plays his two-manual harpsichord built in 1962 by Kurt Wittmayer of Wolfratshausen, Bavaria, pictured in our color presentations. It has two manuals: upper manual 8', 4'; lower manual 8', 16' with lute/buff stops on both lower registers. It is the firm contention both of performer and producer, for which we believe there is substantial historical evidence, that the instrument used in these recordings, with its strong 'Germanic' character, resembles far more closely that which Bach would have used, than the lighter, thinner sonorities of those currently dubbed as "authentic", and is particularly suitable to express the seriousness of purpose inherent in these works. Illustrated article: The Baroque German Harpsichord

Each prelude, each fugue is a complex structure with a wealth of detail; and it is the performer's object to take the listener slowly and quietly around each piece in this great exhibition, ensuring subtly but firmly that as much as possible of the fine detailing is transparently clear. These are strong, clear performances, taken at a measured pace, thematic entries and recitative passages clarified by the judicious use of terrace-dynamics. These are performances to teach, to demonstrate, to clarify, and above all, to enjoy. We know of none better.

This one-disc edition is ideal for students with mp3 players. At 128Kbps the quality is excellent.

Prelude 5
Fugue 12 opening
Fugue 12 conclusion
Prelude 13
Fugue 16
Prelude 22
Prelude 36
Fugue 32 excerpt
Prelude 37
Fugue 44

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