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J.S. BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier Book I

J.S. BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier Book I

Johann Sebastian Bach

Originally Released On Ms082198

2CD Set, Digitally Remastered



”[David Korevaar’s] recording of Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier is a welcome addition to the interpretation of some of the most important and beautiful music ever written… Korevaar does not pinpoint Bach’s points or inappropriately highlight inner voices. The music unfolds with grace and often charm. Nuances and details are brought out naturally in long lines… Korevaar’s performance is compelling and warm; his contrasts bring forward the emotional content. The intensity of his rendition is achieved, not by playing loud or by speeding up, but often by going quiet so that you can hear the master at work. The performance is intimate and satisfying.”
Susan Hall, ConcertoNet [April 2013]
"David Korevaar’s excellent transversal of the 48 strikes a nice balance of impulses. His playing is pianistic enough; that is, he phrases with controlled dynamism, and uses the pedal in a spare and tasteful way. Tempi are measured and non-eccentric. As Korevaar points out in his notes, the player gets no help from the composer in these choices, and so intuition must kick in, and in this case, the intuition is sound."
Peter Burwasser, Fanfare - May/June 2011
"Korevaar's technique is impeccable... Fine sound."
Turok's Choice, Issue No.229 - February 2011
"Korevaar's performance is shaped with scrupulous discipline and in recurring instances he displays a beauty of line which is quite breathtaking. Equally...his prestidigitation is formidable."
Smith, Music & Vision- January 2011
"Korevaar's recording of the WTC Book I captures [Bach's] genius at its most mellifluous... "
Arsenio Orteza, World - January 2011
"The Well-Tempered Clavier is the kind of masterwork that can be approached from many differing viewpoints. David Korevaar, a pianist, teacher, and writer on music, seems to like a highly lyrical approach... he certainly possesses the technique to tackle the numerous hurdles that one must overcome in this music. He sparkles, especially, in the lighter movements of the set... He never produces an ugly sound and never overly sentimentalizes this music. "
Noriega, Fanfare - March / April 2011
"David Korevaar is an interesting artist... Korevaar’s performance is beautifully recorded, and his playing is deliciously sensitive... [his]  Baldwin carries a very nice tone and a warmly intimate sonority. His approach is more to the romantic side...done in a tasteful way."
Clements, MusicWeb International - January 2011
"This is a reissue with better sound. My review (July/Aug 1999) cited Korevaar’s musicality and finesse. My one complaint was the tone of the piano. The new release takes care of that problem beautifully: Korevaar’s tone is lovely, warm and full of variety. The release has held up well over time; few pianists care enough, or have sufficient imagination, to attend to the extremely tiny details that matter so much in Bach"
Haskins, American Record Guide, January / February 2011


TOP 25 RECORDINGS "...command of large-scale structure, tonal variety, and welcome rubato"
American Record Guide, July/August 2005
"David Korevaar's interpretation deserves to win attention...Bach's musical thought and spirit come through purely and simply...it makes for rewarding listening."
European Piano Journal, Summer 1999
"...Korevaar's plays Bach mellifluously and fluently...[he] has the skills to reproduce this music without strain...there are real charms in [his] graceful approach..."
Fanfare - November/December 1999
"Korevaar's performance is singing and reassuring..."
American Record Guide - July/August 1999

 Visit David Korevaar's Website:

Pianist David Korevaar brings his consummate artistry to repertoire from Bach to the present. His critically acclaimed performances and recordings are only one facet of a career that encompasses teaching and writing on music. He has performed as soloist and chamber musician at major venues in New York and across the United States, playing frequently in his home state of Colorado. International performances have included appearances in Australia, Japan, Korea, Abu Dhabi and Europe.

Currently a member of the Boulder Piano Quartet and Clavier Trio, Korevaar has performed as guest artist with the Takács, Manhattan and Colorado Quartets, as well as many other ensembles. He has recorded works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Ravel, Dohnányi, Lowell Liebermann, and many other composers for the MSR Classics, Ivory Classics, Koch, Centaur and Kleos labels. Multimedia collaborations include the award-winning "Fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier" with Tim Smith.

Korevaar has been honored with top prizes from the University of Maryland William Kapell International Piano Competition (1988), the Peabody-Mason Music Foundation (1985), and the prize for performance of French music from the Robert Casadesus Competition (1989). In 2000, he received the Richard French award from The Juilliard School for his doctoral document on Ravel's Miroirs.

David Korevaar’s mentors have included the pianists Earl Wild, Paul Doguereau, and Abbey Simon, as well as composer David Diamond. He received his BM, MM, and DMA degrees from The Juilliard School, and is currently Associate Professor of Piano at the University of Colorado at Boulder. David Korevaar is a Shigeru Kawai Artist.

In 1722, Bach completed work on the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier. The expression "Well-Tempered" refers to a tuning system which allowed keyboard instruments for the first time to play in all possible keys without sounding too strange—a tuning system which is the immediate ancestor of the modern system of equal temperament. In our modern system, octaves are tuned correctly—that is, with no audible beats—and subdivided into twelve equal half-steps. This has the consequence of rendering all of the other intervals slightly out of tune, or "tempered," from their Pythagorean proportions. Before Bach completed the WTC, a number of composers had produced works exploiting well-tempered tuning, but Bach’s two sets (the second book was completed in the 1740s) are landmarks not only for their exploitation of the possibilities of all the keys, but also for their consummate summary of the art of writing for keyboard instruments in the many styles and forms in common use at the end of the Baroque period.

The WTC I does not seem to have been conceived with a specific instrument in mind. (The word "Clavier" simply means "keyboard.") Some parts of it seem suited to the sound of the organ, while others seem more suited to the brilliant characteristics of the harpsichord. The intimate sound and shading possibilities of the clavichord are ideal for much of the WTC I, but the private nature of the instrument makes performances problematic.

The modern piano is able to produce a far greater range of color than the keyboard instruments of Bach’s day, and thus makes an excellent vehicle for interpreting this music. In 1915, the great pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni wrote, "Like his successors Mozart and Beethoven, Bach committed some of his most valuable thoughts to the keyboard, that discredited, indispensable and most comprehensive of all instruments. . . The rejuvenated pianoforte gives birth again to the master of the pianoforte, and behind what are only apparently old-fashioned forms it reveals the soul of a great man."

Starting with C major, Bach has written a prelude and a fugue in each major and minor key, following the chromatic scale: C major, C minor, C-sharp major, C-sharp minor, D major, D minor, etc., finishing with B minor, making twenty-four pairs in all.

The term "prelude" is used in its literal sense of a work that introduces or precedes something else. It may also refer to church organists’ practice of "preluding," or improvising around a simple chord progression in order to set the key of the coming hymn. Certainly several of the preludes in this set can be heard as figured chord progressions, particularly No.1 (C major) and No.2 (C minor). In the preludes, Bach presents a wide variety of forms and styles, including a fugally developed chorale-prelude (No.7 in E-flat major), several "inventions" of two or three voices, arias (especially beautiful is the Sarabande-like Prelude No.8 in E-flat minor), toccatas, and, in the case of the B-minor prelude (No.24), a trio-sonata movement with two solo voices in the treble over a walking bass.

A fugue is a contrapuntal composition in which a subject is stated initially in one voice in the main (tonic) key, and then imitated be each voice entering in succession, generally alternating tonic and dominant. In this book, the fugues are in three or four voices, with one two-voice example (No.10 in E minor) and two with five voices (No.4 in C-sharp minor, No.22 in B-flat minor). Although all the fugues in this set are strictly worked out, Bach’s greatest accomplishment is that he has created vibrant and emotional music within this strict and potentially academic compositional procedure.

WTC I presents two balanced halves of twelve preludes and fugues each. Fugues 12 (F minor) and 24 (B minor) each encompass all twelve chromatic pitches in their opening measures: F minor in the course of the subject and answer, B minor in the subject alone. In each half there is one old-style five-voice fugue a half-step from each end of the scale (No.4 in C-sharp minor, No.22 in B-flat minor). The two longest preludes (No.7 in E-flat major, No.24 in B minor) each deal with the same melodic idea, a rising fourth and descending second, and develop it with a similar contrapuntal clarity and consistency. Of course, these intervals show up in just about all tonal music, because of their strong harmonic implications.

For the interpreter, finding a convincing approach for each piece in the set is critical. Although Bach has given no dynamic indications and only the occasional tempo indication, there are many other ways of identifying an appropriate character and tempo for each piece. It is both liberating and daunting to be given such leeway. Bach himself was said to have used the interpretation and performance of these pieces in his teaching as the ultimate test for his most advanced keyboard students. Perhaps part of his purpose in not indicating tempi was to force students to interpret based on factors contained intrinsically in the written music itself—in other words, to be able to identify and perform in styles and forms that were the common currency of the time.

For the modern performer and modern listener, Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier provides a comprehensive view of the compositional style and emotional range of one of the greatest composers of all time. It is music that is still vital more than 250 years after the death of its creator.


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