Following Jill Crossland’s successful release of J.S. Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier, Book 1 earlier this year, Signum are pleased to announce the release of Book 2 in this new 2CD set.
Completed by 1742, Book 2 was intended as a complement to Book 1, not as a replacement. It is generally far more difficult than Book 1 however, with greater technical and structural difficulty for the performer. It was the ultimate workbook, open to constant change and refining by Bach himself.
In Jill Crossland’s own words, ‘No other music is so perfect an integration of emotional expression and intellectual rigour’. Jill first performed the complete Well-tempered Clavier from memory as a student in Manchester.
"Bach sounds so beautiful"
"The listener who is used to Glenn Gould as a guide through J S Bach’s keyboard works will not want his ears so soon to revisit its dry, analytical and often perverse piano sound. In particular, there are the passages played against the grain, the sharply accented attack and the crystalline clarity, even at extreme fast tempos. Contrary and brilliantly clean, virtuosic and at the same time sublime – that is what Gould’s Bach is like.
The arrival of British pianist Jill Crossland administers a small but salutary shock. Her recording of both books of the Well-tempered Clavier, now completed, sounds so effortless, natural and light that one often feels one is hearing quite a different composer. Her clarity requires no sonic sharpening or over-deliberate emphasis. Everything flows: the polyphonic interplay of voices under the fingers seems to happen by itself, as if one needs just one truly attentive listening for the music to make perfect sense.
The dynamics are above all between mezzo-piano and mezzo-forte, and hardly go above a mild forte. The tempi are also generally measured, but allow for virtuosity where appropriate. But because of the performer’s great sensitivity, this never sounds pale or half-hearted, but rather as if it just had to be played that way. The interrelation between the voices is well structured through this approach, with moments of tension to be savoured, and carefully thought-out use of the colours of the keyboard.
Jill Crossland has nailed her colours to the mast for this view of Bach. In her interpretation the composer sounds above all a set of heavenly meditations, some of the Preludes and Fugues contrapuntal mandalas, one somehow imagines the pianist with eyes closed and leaning her head slightly to the side, with great concentration and profundity.
This is how Crossland interprets - with awareness of each single sound and at once wonderfully relaxed and graceful, expressing so many phrases with great delicacy. One listens happily, but often moved to tears. Bach sounds so beautiful! (Another) hidden gem!"
"Within seconds you’re drawn into the gentle hammer-strokes that unlock Crossland’s warm, rounded and perpetually singing sonority ..."