Monday, 9 June 2008

107. Johann Sebastien Bach - The Well-Tempered Clavier (1740-42)


Title: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier 1 and 2
Performer: Gustav Leonhardt
Year: 1968,73
Length: 4 hours 20 minutes (4 CDs in two separate boxes)


There are some pieces of art in all kinds of arts in which you can recognise the importance and greatness of the thing, while at the same time having a guttural aversion to it. Such is my case with the Well-Tempered Clavier.

Firstly, as I have said before, solo harpsichord is second only to the organ in boring me, of course some pieces are the exception and I frequently feel like listening to Rameau's Cyclopes. But this, despite its formal and technical innovation bores me. Particularly when you have to listen to 4 hours of it. It is best digested in small doses.

Still, Bach was not the first to compose Harpsichord pieces in all 24 possible notes but he was the first influential composer to do it and that makes this an impressive and more than that influential and extremely important work, definitely a piece of musical history being made here, and I recognise that... but then, it bores me.

Final Grade



Although the Well-Tempered Clavier was not the first pantonal (using all keys) composition, it was by far the most influential. Beethoven, who made remote modulations central to his music, was heavily influenced by the Well-Tempered Clavier, since performing it in concerts in his youth was part of his star attraction and reputation. The WTC (Well-Tempered Clavier) does not include very remote modulations but instead demonstrates the ability of a single instrument in tempered tuning to play in all 24 keys without having to be tuned to new fundamentals. Further reaching modulations to remote harmonic regions were mostly associated with later Romantic and post-Romantic music, ultimately leading to the functional extension in jazz harmony. The atonal system of the 20th century, although still taking the 12-tone chromatic scale (that Bach used) as a foundation, effectively did away with musical keys altogether.

Van Asperen's version:

No comments: