Ralph Kirkpatrick recorded Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier twice, once on the harpsichord, the other time utilizing a clavichord. In his original booklet notes to Book 1, Kirkpatrick lucidly pinpoints the clavichord's timbral and tactile distinctions from its more corpulent cousin. The most important of these is that the player can slightly bend the pitch upwards after a note is struck. A slight vibrato ensues when one rapidly alternates between raised and normal pitch.
Kirkpatrick also addresses the problems of reproducing the instrument's intimate sonority on disc, an issue that is as relevant today as it was in 1959 when this recording was made. Even in a tiny room the clavichord at its loudest will be obliterated by aRead more voice speaking at normal volume. What's more, Kirkpatrick claims that the subtle balance of attack and duration of tone that characterize his phrasing become exaggerated if the discs are played back at too high a volume. Indeed, if your volume dial is cranked up, the instrument sounds cramped, with the lower register seemingly miked at a louder level in relation to the treble. Turn it down, and you'll better absorb the beauty of Kirkpatrick's tinted nuances, the flowing rhetoric of his Preludes, and the lucid voice leading he brings to each fugue, no matter how simple or complex. His playing is scholarly without being pedantic, and free of the picky agogics and fussy ornaments that many period instrumentalists deem "authentic".
Some tempos, to be certain, move too fast for listening comfort, like the breakneck C-sharp and E-flat major preludes. Yet there's nothing mechanical or glib about Kirkpatrick's even, controlled fingerwork. You just need to concentrate at low volume in order to reap this set's many rewards. I look forward to Book II, and, of course, to Kirkpatrick's harpsichord versions of the "48". A beautiful reissue.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 846-869by Johann Sebastian Bach
Ralph Kirkpatrick (Clavichord)
Period: Baroque Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany Date of Recording: 1959 Venue: Polydor Studio, Paris, France Length: 105 Minutes 59 Secs.