Rosalyn Tureck The Well-tempered Clavier 1&2

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Rosalyn Tureck The Well-tempered Clavier 1&2

Rosalyn Tureck continues to be mentioned by journalists as a rather controversial figure, however I'm not sure why that is. I can hardly think of a Bach interpreter who's spent as much time as she has researching and dedicating their life to Bach's music. I've never thought of her playing as stylish or unusual other than her tendency to take tempos less briskly than others however that just speak's of her superb musicianship.

In the years between 1951 and 1952 in NYC, Rosalyn Tureck recorded The Well-tempered Clavier 1 & 2. These discs are of course in mono and were released in 2000 by Deutsche Grammophon. I've not heard them and the price is a bit steep, so I was wondering whether anyone could comment on this release? Also, any mention of other recordings may just keep the conversation inviting.

goofyfoot

Less Brisk Tea

I'm not a devotee of Rosalyn T, but analogous tempo controversy may be found with quite a few others, where some claim musicianship while others suggest show(wo)manship.

There may be a third motivation for a cautious speed - limitation.

In a few industries (and near law enforcement), there may be financial temptations to be slow.

Technical Limitations

'There may be a third motivation for a cautious speed - limitation.'

tjh212, it's more difficult to play slow and ppp than to play fast and ff. You know this even if you don't realize it so I'm astonished at your comment.

goofyfoot

Tureck's WTC.

In the older WTC thread (initiated by Camaron), I recall our precious (apparently gone) Chris (Johnson) was very fond of Tureck's WTC recording. I believe Camaron and few others too. I do not listen to that old recordings, but I have few of her stereo ones and she sounded fine, if not too personal.

Besides, she is not the only one who opted for slower pace in the various Preludes and Fugues, some of which lend themselves to slower reading.

In this thread, goofyfot, you can find plenty of other options for this monumental keyboard work (Piano, Cembalo, Clavichord etc.).

Parla

WTC

Thanks Parla and as I said initially, any and all other recommendations concerning Bach's keyboard works are welcome. I started with Rosalyn Tureck because of her clarity of line, the balance between voices, her thoughtful phrasing and accentuation of embellishments.

Though I don't clearly understand why some Bach fans have such animosity towards her approach, I can rationally accept that Rosalyn Tureck is not for everyone. I also  happen to like Gould's 1955 Goldberg Variations and if you've not heard the Zenph recording, I highly recommend it. But all things in moderation and so I'm slowly trying to adjust to other Bach keyboard recordings i.e. 'Bach JS concertos italiens Alexandre Tharaud piano Steinway harmonia mundi'

 

goofyfoot

Slow

Thanks, goofyfoot.

I really don't see how playing the Ruslan and Lyudmila Overture slower (and softer, though dynamics was not what I had in mind) is more difficult (to the player).

I just heard some of Pierre Laurent Aimard's and it has interesting moments.

Hi goofyfoot,

Hi goofyfoot,

I think some people find the recording -and her general approach to Bach- too "didactic", as if she was trying to teach or "preach" about the music as opposed to getting carried away by it. Some other people don't agree with her slow tempos.

To me her 1952 is a landmark recording. Even if it is not necessarily the one I listen to the most it is the one I would probably recommend to someone who doesn't still know the music or doesn't have a recording of the 48. The reason is not only the obvious quality and the insight into the music but also the "unproblematic" quality of her interpretation.

When doing comparative listening of the first book in the thread that Parla mentions her 1952 recording was often a preferred one by myself or others.

If you are ok with her slow tempos -and you seem to be- you should really enjoy it, I think.

Other than Gould's, another recording I'm very fond of is Friedric Gulda's. Often he can create and sustain momentum like no other, and the clarity of his lines is second to none. But his sound is dry and makes generous use of staccato, and you might not like that.

Tureck Slow, Gulda Dry

There's a possible quandary with respect to older recordings in being that each violinists, pianists, etc... had a character identifiably unique among themselves. It's much easier to identify Milstein from Kreisler and Rubenstein from Gieseking than to try doing the same with many of todays artists. There are of course differences between today's artists however I don't beleive them to be as noticeable.

So I sense that these artistic qualities of past musicians are now considered undesirable and/or out of fashion. Tureck slow, Guilda dry, it's always something it seems. And given that the technology of recording was in its earlier stages with many of these artists, that's even more of a reason to pick something more current.

 

goofyfoot

Not sure if I follow you here

Not sure if I follow you here goofyfoot. Are you advocating for the undifferentiated interpretation?

Gulda's dryness is -as far as I'm concerned- a plus. It is not a technical deficiency but an artistic choice. Obviously I will understand if other people are put off by it, but not me.

If you want a modern, lush-sounding recording, which is also -artistically speaking- a good recording you could go for Angela Hewitt, in many respects the opposite to Gulda (and Gould): Beautifully embellished sound, rubato and romantic approach to the music, a rhythmic softness to it. On the whole -if I may say so- a very feminine interpretation. I genuinely think is very good, by not my thing.

What recording you currently have/know?

Advocacy; No.

'Not sure if I follow you here goofyfoot. Are you advocating for the undifferentiated interpretation?'

No Cameron, I'm not advocating for the homogenization of today's artists, I'm just voicing a consideration that rarely gets mentioned. If anything, I believe my statement draws attention towards an intolerance of older recordings due to the seeming peculiarities of playing and the mono antiquity of the recording. Anyway, I would certainly like to own the Andante label box set of Gulda however it's out of print and rather difficult to find with a reasonable price tag.


I have Bach playing by a number of earlier pianists including Tureck, Gould, Kempff, Kissin, Backhaus and Haskil just to name a few. A complete WTC Books 1&2 is rarely seen and as such, I don't own a recording of it so the 1952 Tureck recordings are still a consideration.

goofyfoot

Old and new recordings and the WTC.

Having a quite extended range of modern recordings and fewer older ones, I cannot blame neither of them for projecting specific characteristics. Anything relies on the production (mostly) and the equipment/accoustics in place (to a considerable extent) rather than on the special features of the pianist involved.
I did not buy Tureck, because her old recording cannot do full justice of the full capacity and actual sonorities of the instrument. Gulda's version on Decca (in the reissue I have) sounds less dry but, overall, still not as full and realistic.

If I have to stick to a compromised old(er) but stereo recording of a formidable pianist, that will be the incoparable spiritual performance of Richter, particularly in the Melodiya release. Likewise, I love to listen to the Melodiya release (released at times on other labels too) of the great and so emotional Nikolayeva, in much better and more realistic sound.

From the more recent recordings, one can easily identify the playing of a great Schiff (even in his own two recordings, on Decca and the more recent on ECM). Likewise, Roger Woodward, on Celestial Harmonies (released in 2009), gives a very special, almost unique approach to the work, keeping slow (but not always) tempi (the two books are expanded in 5CDs!), but being, at the same time disciplined (without being pedantic), very precise (without resorting to being didactic) and with enough passion throughout.

Angela Hewitt sounds also different in her two recordings of the WTC, the first on a Steinway and the second on her beloved Fazioli. More daring and exciting in the first, more refined and mature in the second.

Peter Hill, on Delphian, has a very refine, precise and at times dynamic sound and mature playing, on Delphian, in his last year's production. Ashkenazy can always be identified by his brisk, well-rounded sound and good perspective of the composer, in his rather recent Decca release (2009).

Koroliov is also very distincitve in his playing: one of my preferred recordings of the "48", on Tacet. A very individual, almost unique approach, slow enough in some Preludes and Fugues, lending themselves to broader interpretation.

From the very recent ones, Abdel Rahman el Bacha, having the benefit of the best possible reording of the Japanese Triton in two-channel SACD, provides the more realistically sounding set of the two books, with admirable precision and enough passion and even some creative inspiration at times.

The First Book of Aimard and Pollini show another more modern, calculated and, unfortunately, cold (or detached) approach to these works.

And there are some more who have their own merits and characteristics, deserving our attention, if we wish to indulge in their musicianship and artistry.

Parla

P.S.: ...and we should not forget the Harpsichord or event the Clavichord recordings, which can provide the WTC in a great variety of sonorities and a quite different beauty, otherwise lost in a modern Grand Piano with its inevitable homogenous and unified sound.

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