Das Wohltemperierte Klavier II / Book 2 Well-Tempered Clavier
Julia Cload - PIANO
The original title of the second book of the Well -Tempered Clavier was 24 New Preludes and Fugues, and it was completed around 1742.
In the last ten years of his life we find Bach gathering together and revising his most important works, among which would have been pieces in this collection. The earlier works included here were revised, transformed and extended. Thus Bach ensured that these and the newly composed pieces were of equal stature. The second part of Book 2 is a synthesis of his entire musical life and its eclectic influences. The archaic modes of the Lutheran church, the Roman (Latin) liturgy (see Busoni), the Passions, the dance forms, the Inventions and the Concerti Grossi, permeate the whole work. It moves forward to an abstract and almost mystical form of expression, revealing great harmonic riches. All the fugal devices are evident with powerful effect, but in this book he freely transcends contrapuntal logic. It is here that Spitta's well known description is particularly apt.
"There is a legend which tells us of a city of marvels that lies sunk beneath the sea; the sound of a bell comes up from the depths, and when the surface is calm, houses and streets are visible through the clear water, with all the stir and turmoil of human life - but it is infinitely far down and every attempt to clutch the vision only troubles the waters and distorts the picture. We feel the same thing as we listen to this music. Faintly, remotely, we hear the echoes and as we gaze through the crystal flood of sound we see the soul within….. and this it is which has made it a perennial source of joy and of spiritual refreshment and strength".
No. 1 in C Major
The single spaced melody of this polyvocal prelude is based on 2 voices creating a wide spacious ever flowing leisurely river of sound in contrast to the harmonic structures of the first prelude of Book 1.
No. 2 in C Minor
In the four part fugue, much of the time only three voices are active. The highly expressive subject reminds one of the Passions.
No. 3 in C#
The prelude is most closely related to the harmonic and rhythmic structures of the first prelude of Book 1 with a similar remote quality. It is abruptly followed on by a fughetta. In the fugue the three voices remain in close discussion for much of the first half of this capricious piece.
No. 4 in C# Minor
The prelude is a monumental piece of writing combing plaintive sorrowful expression transcended by a sublime calmness. It could well have been written for a combination of wind and strings in a Concerto Grosso.
No. 5 in D Major
One of the most joyful and exuberant of all 48 preludes in which, it is impossible not to hear trumpets and strings.
Busoni's comments about the fugue are interesting;
"It belongs to an absolutely new category, indisputably with a prevailingly vocal and above all liturgical character, for the piece really has the appearance of an oratorio finale". One can best understand Busoni's comments when remembering Vivaldi's Gloria. These works however, probably date from the same time as Bach's own B minor Mass. Bach had a keen interest in Italian liturgical music from 1733 onwards including Lotti and Caldera.
No. 6 in D Minor
This probably dates back to 1708 in Weimar where Vivaldi was such a big influence as is most evident in the prelude. The chromaticism of the fugue is marvellously realised in its long lines.
No. 7 in E flat Major
The fugue has the liturgical character to which Busoni refers to in other fugues, evoking some great Halleluiah ending in an oratorio.
No. 8 in E flat Minor
The prelude is an extraordinary mixture of adventurous harmonies, and varying minor modes in the form of a two part invention. The fugue recalls both the dramatic C # minor key and the remote archaic G sharp minor fugue from book one.
No. 9 in E Major
This prelude is unique in that Bach offers a second new theme appearing in the dominant, and later in the tonic. There are many similar examples in Scarlatti. Fugue: see Busoni, 5 and 7.
No. 10 in E Minor
The prelude is in the style of an Invention. The fugue, one of the greatest in both books is built on a singular angular subject, the triplet figure creating the surge of a ship on a stormy sea.
No. 11 in F Major
This prelude is another poly-vocal melody. The 2 voices, subdivided into 5 create an endlessly unfolding melodic line. The fugue is in the a style of gigue in which the subject barely recurs after the exposition.
No. 12 in F Minor
Like the companion prelude in Book 1, this is a piece of great and mournful beauty; Bach often uses thirds and sixths in this context. The fugue is another gigue.
No. 13 F# Major
The prelude is built around a playful doted rhythm over continual semi-quavers. The trill in the fugue is a persistent feature even making one think of the "Hammer" trills!
No. 14 in F# Minor
This prelude is in the style of a three-voiced Concertino. The fugue is based on three subjects; the pathetic second one introducing a completely new element in the style of a Montiverdi Madrigal, and followed by a third subject which is very close to the second subject of the C# minor fugue, Book 2. The overall scheme is also similar, but the line between subject, imitation and episode is often veiled until the final revelation of the combining of all three subjects.
No. 15 in G Major
This humorous fugue is one of the fugues redeveloped from another version, but now preceded by a shorter prelude also dating from an earlier period. It recalls the C# major prelude, Book 1.
No. 16 in G Minor
The prelude is characterised by the solemnity associated with the dotted rhythm of Bach and Handel. The fugue is of great harmonic richness with a marked contrast between the relentless subject and the pathetic nature of the counter subject, with the moving interval of a falling 5th.
No. 17 in A flat Major
The prelude reflects the sense of longing for death as the supreme liberation, for Bach was a great mystic. Its many remarkable harmonies remind one of the Cantatas. There is an earlier shorter version of this fugue in F major . This is now one of the most perfect examples in the 48 with a descending chromatic counter subject of great richness.
No. 18 in G # Minor
The two elements in the prelude are an "allemande" theme and a recurring melodious motif like a vocal duet. The melancholy fugue approaches the distant mathematical world of the Art of Fugue.
No. 19 in A Major
Both pieces date from an earlier period and the fugue is characterised by its simplicity.
No. 20 in A Minor
The prelude is surely an unprecedented 12 tone composition anticipating Schonberg! One of the great baroque fugues, impetuous, powerful and dramatic with 4 trombone like opening notes.
No. 21 in B flat Major
Clearly a later piece (1738 according to Spitta) of wonderful richness of polyphony. The simplicity and lyrical nature of the fugue are deceptive. This is one of the most perfect fugues of the 48.
No. 22 in B flat Minor
The prelude is effectively a three part invention with the inner voices recalling the motif of the B flat minor prelude, Book 1. The scheme of the fugue is extraordinary, showing Bach at the height of his polyphonic powers. It combines stretti, inversions, double inversions, all heightening the dramatic power of this massive work.
No. 23 in B Major
The fugue is harmonically one of the richest of the 48, coloured by the leaps in sevenths of the remarkable counter subject.
No. 24 in B Minor
The allegro marking of the prelude is original, and indicates the unsentimental nature of this haunting and dark piece. The fugue is extremely powerful and rhythmic, recalling passages from the St. Mathew Passion.
Julia Cload was born in London and first studied the piano with Hilda Bor; continuing at the Royal College of Music, where she won a three year scholarship to the Liszt Academy in Budapest under Lajos Hernadi, and then went on to study with Maria Curcio and Hans Keller. Julia Cload has played with several of the major British orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, London Mozart Players, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Hallé Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and she has worked with conductors such as Sir Adrian Boult, Sir John Pritchard and Bernard Haitink. A recent highlight of her career was a performance of the Goldberg Variations at the 2001 Besançon Festival. In 2002 her Haydn CDs for Meridian Records were singled out in the Haydn Issue of the Piano Magazine as “the most lastingly illuminating”. Julia will be giving recitals at Haydn Festivals in Vienna & Eisenstadt, as well as playing works by Liszt for a Gala concert at Liszt’s birthplace. Further Haydn CDs are scheduled, to continue her recording of the Complete Keyboard Sonatas for Meridian Records.
J S Bach: The Goldberg Variations. CDE 84291
“ILLUMINATING PLAYING”(****). “The subtle play of light and shade in the Goldberg Variations is highly satisfying. The delightful Preludes and Fugues are similarly rewarding, each being imbued with rhythmic spring and great transparency in the part- Playing”.
Haydn: Piano Sonatas. CDE 84013, CDE 84155 & CDE 84210
“Of all the pianists considered here, however, the greatest ‘find’ for me, also the least known, is Julia Cload. Of all the records under discussion, these, for me, are the most haunting… the most eloquent and the most lastingly illuminating”.