BACH J S

…..merely a dry run when compared to his most recent Bach enterprise. Now Woodward has presented us with both books of the Well-Tempered Clavier. They appear in meticulously prepared editions with the limited deluxe version in black-box sets with facsimiles of the original autographs.
But above all it is the level of musicianship that is responsible for this first class production . Woodward is an exceptionally reflective artist.  In his two extensive companion essays he offers an overview of the checkered performance history and varied ways in which [Bach’s] collections have been received.
Woodward uses the ‘construct’ of legato cantabile to explain the composer’s musical ideal (and of his contemporaries) on the harpsichord.  What this term refers to is a performance that resembles the human singing voice.  The refined performance techniques thus used allow us to forget the restrictions of instruments with limited resonance.
From that perspective Woodward examines the performance possibilities of the other keyboard instruments from the time of Bach (clavicord, spinet, organ and early fortepiano). Since the end of the eighteenth century the hammerklavier began to take a central place amongst them. While its ever more voluminous sound makes it easier to maintain the legato playing illusion, offering thereby totally new dynamic and coloristic possibilities, limited touch control does tends to obliterate the contours of the music.
Woodward himself plays the ultimate of modern grand piano construction, the model D Steinway. With this opulent medium at his fingertips he manages to produce a synthesis of different sound effects and interpretative models without being caught in one extreme or another. It is not Woodward’s mission to imitate the dry and transparent sound of a harpsichord, as attempted by Glenn Gould.
Neither does he share Daniel Barenboim’s inclination to interpret these pieces in the spirit of Leopold Stokowski, as the piano version of the romantic orchestral repertoire. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that for Woodward Bach’s clavier music foretells not only the spirit of the Romantic and the Impressionist periods, but also of modern constructivism.
Woodward’s interpretation incorporates the organic structure of counterpoint, the exploitation of bold well- tempered harmonics, and a contemplative concentration on sound along with flashing virtuosity, and a clarity of musical lines and orchestral effects.
Last but not least, the above mentioned portrayal of ‘cantability’ helps to pull it all together.  The fact that Woodward further opens up the full sound of his instrument, orchestrating it further with his pedal gives his performance a free flowing, breathing, if not, swinging character. Right at the opening of the first book, the C-major Praeludium flows as if emanating from a larger wave movement.
Besides adding expressive powers, changes in tempo help to clarify the structure of the music. At other points the deep sound of the bass strings, wrenches the guts before the listener becomes completely intoxicated by the rest of the music.  Ornamentations that quickly lose their clarity on the piano always sound clear and effortless, providing not mere ornamentation but also color. Is this due to Woodward’s flawless technique or the instrument’s acoustic properties? Both contribute to the successful interplay of those forces which together have the makings of a new standard.
Die Aufnahme erscheint gleichzeitig in verschiedenen Versionen:
I & II m. Booklet + Taschenpartitur in Box: Nr. 19922-5
I m. Booklet + TP in Box: 14281-5
II m. Booklet + TP in Box: 19921-5
I & II m. Booklet 19122-2
I m. Booklet: 14281-2
II m. Booklet: 19121-2
20/20
Georg Henkel
(Translated by Adriana Schuler)

one of the finest pianists of our time”  Iannis Xenakis