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Well Tempered Clavier Book I BWV 846-869

Ton Koopman (Harpsichord)

Ton Koopman’s Well Tempered Clavier Book 1

K-1

J.S. Bach: Das Wohltemeprierte Klavier, Band I - BWV 846-849

24 Preludes & Fugues BWV 846-869

Ton Koopman (harpsichord)

Erato

Apr 1982

2-CD / TT: 110:00

Recorded at Oud-Katholieke Kerk Maria Minor, Utrecht, Holland.
Buy this album at:
Amazon.com | Amazon.de | Amazon.de | Amazon.com [Box Set] | Amazon.de [Box Set]

Donald Satz wrote (May 7, 2001):
Ton Koopman is one of the leading conductors and performers of Bach's music. His Bach Cantata series on Erato has garnered continued complimentary comments. I have reviewed one of his Bach/harpsichord discs, the Inventions/Sinfonias for Capriccio, which was a worthy effort.

Back in the early 1990's I acquired his Erato recordings of the entire WTC on harpsichord; that was around the same time I also bought the van Asperen and Glenn Wilson sets. However it happened, I misplaced or sold or donated the three sets. I do remember that I was not high on harpsichord recordings at that time in my life - what was I thinking?

Anyways, I saw Koopman's Book 1 in a local store's used bins and acquired it promptly. The presentation is excellent as the cover is attractive and the liner notes have detailed comments on each prelude and fugue. The back of the booklet has a photograph of Koopman that I'm surprised he was willing to have distributed. His head looks like he either just got out of bed or was pushed into a wind tunnel. Never get photographed on a bad hair day.

With grooming matters out of the way, let me tell you about his musical performances:

Koopman plays in a crisp manner. He's much more likely to shorten note values than stretch them. This tendency has much impact on the performances; sometimes I very much enjoyed the shortened notes, and I always found the performances interesting.

In a few of the pieces, Koopman creates rhythmic variations from the norm. Again, the impact on the music is significant and interesting.

Koopman finds it hard to put on a happy/joyous face; that last ounce of joy is usually missing when needed. This is Koopman, and he has a similar tendency in his Bach cantata series. I suppose this is a criticism, but I don't expect Koopman to give me the full supply of joy. Yet, the Fugue in F sharp major finds Koopman sloughing off his burdens and really getting into a happy mode with his usual great urgency.

Magical or superlative performances are very infrequent in Koopman's set. Although not one fugue or prelude is less than competitive and my interest level is high, there aren't many that are highly memorable.My favorite is Koopman's reading of the Prelude in B flat major. Although he doesn't play it very fast, he sounds like he's being shot out of a cannon. Maybe that's how his hair got so messed up. Anyways, this performance is of industrial strength, and I won't be forgetting it.

The sound quality of the CD's is good. It's quite stark and clean - very crisp. Sometimes, in the faster/stronger pieces, this crispness becomes too much of a good thing. So, it's not perfect sound, but it's nothing to worry about either.

Just the other day I reviewed a Book 1 set by Christiane Jaccottet. Rest assured that Koopman's performances easily surpass those of Jaccottet. He's a major league Bach performing artist and fully competitive with most other Book I sets.

Don's Conclusions: I'll give Koopman's Book 1 a moderate recommendation. I don't think there's much in it to rival the best versions, but it is more interesting than most and always rewarding. I likely admire the set more than I enjoy it. That condition tells me that others of different preferences could well consider Koopman's set outstanding. The only grouping I would advise to steer clear of the Koopman performances is the one that places the highest priority on the full measure of joy in Bach's music being conveyed.

 

Feedback to the Review

Pablo Fagoaga wrote (May 7, 2001):
Donald Satz wrote:
< Back in the early 1990's I acquired his Earto recordings of the entire WTC on harpsichord; that was around the same time I also bought the van Asperen and Glenn Wilson sets. However it happened, I misplaced or sold or donated the three sets. I do remember that I was not high on harpsichord recordings at that time in my life - what was I thinking? >
Well, Donald, So sad to hear you got rid of Wilson's set, 'cause it would have been extremely interesting to have it included in one of your fine reviews!! If you happen to get it again, I'll be glad to have it compared with other readings. Of course, this doesn't mean the other proficient reviewers that this list have to remain silent. On the contrary, knowledge is always welcome.

 

Well Tempered Clavier Book I BWV 846-869: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
WTC I - D. Barenboim [D. Satz] | WTC I - D. Barenboim [P. Bright] | WTC I - T. Fellner | WTC I - E. Fischer | WTC I - M. Horszowski | WTC I - C. Jaccottet | WTC I - R. Kirkpatrick | WTC I - T. Koopman | WTC I - W. Landowska | WTC I - R. Levin | WTC I - O. Mustonen | WTC I - S. Richter | WTC I - S. Schepkin
Well Tempered Clavier Book II BWV 870-893: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9
WTC II - D. Barenboim [P. Bright] | WTC II - G. Cooper | WTC II - F. Gulda | WTC II - A. Hewitt | WTC II - R. Kirkpatrick | WTC II - J. Middleton
Well Tempered Clavier Books I&II BWV 846-893: WTC I&II - B.v. Asperen, S. Ross & G. Wilson | WTC I&II - E. Crochet | WTC I&II - O. Dantone | WTC I&II S. Feinberg | WTC II&II - T. Nikolayeva | WTC II&II - L. Thiry [N. Halliday] | WTC I&II - Z. Ruzickova

Ton Koopman: Short Biography | Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Recordings of Vocal Works:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Recordings of Instrumental Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Koopman’s Petition | Newsletters
Cantatas::
Koopman on TV | Cantatas Vol. 1 | Cantatas Vol. 6 | Cantatas Vol. 9 | Cantatas Vol. 10 | Cantatas Vol. 13 | Cantatas Vol. 14 | Cantatas Vol. 17 | Cantatas Vol. 22
Other Vocal Works:
BWV 244 - Koopman | BWV 247 - Koopman
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Ton Koopman’s Well Tempered Clavier Book 1 | Bach Sonatas for Gamba and Harpsichord | Review: Bach Orchestral Suites DVD
Discussions of Instrumental Recordings:
Die Kunst der Fuge BWV 1080 - played by Ton Koopman
Books:
The World of the Bach Cantatas [by C. Wolff & T. Koopman]
Article:
Bach’s Choir and Orchestra [by Ton Koopman]
Table of recordings by BWV Number

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Last update: ýDecember 5, 2006 ý17:22:30