THE GRAMOPHONE FEBRUARY 2010 – EDITOR’S CHOICE
Perahia’s Partitas. Woodward’s wonderful Bach. Horowitz celebrated.
Imaginative performances by Woodward that rank alongside the very best
A five-disc Well-Tempered Clavier usually signifies measured tempi and all repeats observed, and that’s mostly true of Roger Woodward’s recording. Yet nothing drags, because the pianist’s superb contrapuntal acumen, imaginative ornamentation and quietly strong sense of inner rhythm keep the music alive and moving forward.
Woodward’s extensive and problem booklet-notes discuss the music and its performing traditions in depth, and prove just as articulate and provocative as his musicianship and pianism. A fascinating antipode to Hewitt (Hyperion, 10/9. 9/99), Koroliev (Tacet, 6/00) and Ashkenazy (Decca, 3/06), among standout recent piano versions of the “48”.
THE INDEPENDENT Friday, 19 March 2010 (rated 5/5)
There has been almost as much of a glut of Well-Tempered Claviers recently as commemorative Chopin editions, including interpretations from Daniel Barenboim and Maurizio Pollini; but this 5CD set of both Books I and II by Roger Woodward may well be the most significant since Glenn Gould’s revolutionary completion of the sequence.
The size of the set suggests unusually slow tempi, but Woodward is simply being scrupulously attendant to the demands of the music. Indeed, his thorough sleeve note In Search Of A Performance Practice, analysing the different approaches employed on various cembali, clavichords, organs, etc, may constitute the last word on this subject, as too may his performance. Remarkable. 5/5 Andy Gill
MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL REVIEWS
This has to be one of the most sumptuous CD releases I have ever seen. My congratulations go to Celestial Harmonies for their sense of design and taste.
My own desert island choice for The Well Tempered Clavier in a complete edition has…..been that of Sviatoslav Richter. For the first time in nearly 30 years I am faced with a conversion: the next time I am asked which recording of this music I want to take with me onto my desert island, I won’t instantly say Sviatoslav Richter, and I might not even mention him at all. …..Roger Woodward’s impressive approach bears the kind of fruit which rivals all comers…. there are too many wonderful moments and movements in this recording to list everything…
Such is the music in Book II of the Well-Tempered Clavier, (that)… Roger Woodward reinforces all of my feelings about this as pure music, as well as making it vibrant and alive and in some intangible way bringing it right up to date – as music for now, not as a beautiful but extinct fossil to be preserved under glass in a museum.
Even without these superb recordings, this release would be worth the asking price just for the extensive two-part booklet notes by Roger Woodward, “In Search of a Performance Practice”, and those autograph facsimiles of both Books. These are the kinds of CD releases which you feel you should bequeath separately in your will, such is the feel of worth and value they have.
Dominy Clements (reviewing RW’s CDs)
(reviewing Pollini’s WTC CDs)
Roger Woodward’s recording has taken on something of the character of a benchmark for me in this repertoire… Do I have a favourite? If we’re talking the entire cycle of both books then it’s Roger Woodward and Sviatoslav Richter still at the top……
Hearing Woodward, it sounds as though he’s been playing Bach all his life - … and it sounds like he “gets” Bach. His use of legato is balanced and attractive, and his phrasing sounds natural. …. Woodward seems to avoid trying to stand out, but the sum of all the parts make something that excels.
… this recording should stake out a place at the summit of piano recordings of this masterful work. We can only hope that Roger Woodward will record more Bach in the future.
MUSIK AN SICH, FRANKFURT REVIEW
PROFOUND 20/2O One of the first fruits of Woodward’s encounters with Bach is a recording containing amongst others works, the Chromatic Fantasie and two Partitas from the first part of the Clavier-Übung, which received the 2007 special prize, awarded by the critics of the German recording industry. ….But above all it is the level of musicianship that is responsible for this first class production . Woodward is an exceptionally reflective artist. …. The refined performance techniques thus used allow us to forget the restrictions of instruments with limited resonance.
With this opulent medium (Steinway D) at his fingertips he produce(s) 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 It is undeniable that 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.
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. 20/20 Georg Henkel (Translated by Adriana Schuler)
SUBLIME WTC - January 31, 2010
(Audio CD) Source: http://www.amazon.com This is a lovely piano performance of the great Well-Tempered Clavier. The best one I recall hearing. Best of all, he really makes everything sing. Every piece is characterized individually; there is a wonderful variety of tone colours and articulation. A must-have performance. By David Cates (Berkeley CA USA)
SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG, MUNICH
April 17, 2010… SHIVA MEETS BACH ...These recordings resulted in four-and-a-half stellar hours of the Bach discography. Because Woodward approaches the two cycles fluently and briskly as one unified work, because, as a graduate of the avant-garde he doesn’t need to shy away from any technical challenges, because he knows how to courageously take full advantage of the possibilities of the modern grand piano, because he relies less on interpretation than on fierily incendiary presentation, Woodward removes anything historical, elitist or alienating from this music; he understands Bach as a contemporary of innovators such as Xenakis, Cage, Feldman, and Ligeti. No looking back, no nostalgia, no more educational high-browism, no more old Europe. Never before did Johann Sebastian have such a future head of him. Reinhard J. Brembeck
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD 28 December 2009, Classical
“The best recordings by an Australian artist were Roger Woodward’s Debussy Preludes and Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier with the American label Celestial Harmonies.”
AND…. another Bach recording….
J S Bach Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue, BWV 903; Partita No. 2 BWV 826 and Partita No. 6 BWV 830 Celestial Harmonies 13280-2
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD October 27-28, 2007
I first heard Roger Woodward play Bach’s Partita No. 6 in E minor more than 30 years ago in the Sydney Town Hall and recall that, in the Sarabande, the work’s musical and expressive centre, he seemed to stress its modernity to create a sense of transformation.
…this beautiful recent recording …. is deeply personal playing, recording a lifetime of musical thought about these masterpieces, after the complicating aspirations of youth have fallen away.