Thomas Günther

Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I

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"Klassik der Zukunft" proclaims the motto of the small German label Cybele, on which this audiophile release appears: Classical Music of the Future. At first, as pianist Thomas Günther starts in with pedal on the arpeggios of the first prelude in C major in Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Part 1, BWV 846-869, the album seems anything but future-oriented. As the set proceeds, though, Günther develops an unusual and forward-looking interpretation. This is a piano version of the Well-Tempered Clavier, no doubt about it; there's no attempt to have the piano replicate the sound of a harpsichord. But Günther relies more on articulation, dynamics, and tempo than on use of the pedal to differentiate the individual works. And differentiate them he does, all without turning Bach into Chopin. You can get an idea of what his performance is like by looking at the booklet, which contains a detailed paragraph on each individual prelude and fugue. Listening to the performance is like entering a novel filled with complex paragraphs in which every word is carefully weighed, but Günther's readings are never unemotional or academic. He doesn't vary the tempo much within each individual piece, but he sculpts each one out into a distinctive entity. Sample the F minor prelude, CD 1, track 23, to get an idea of the treatment of the individual pieces, but to get an idea of the whole, which is variegated to an extremely unusual degree while still seeming connected to Bach's language, you have to listen to the whole thing. Cybele's SACD sound, captured in the properly sized New Auditorium of the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, is flawless.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Das Wohltempierte Clavier - Band 1
1 1:52
2 2:04
3 1:34
4 1:32
5 1:17
6 2:25
7 2:43
8 4:55
9 1:17
10 1:52
11 1:27
12 2:17
13 4:06
14 1:50
15 3:56
16 5:49
17 1:23
18 1:18
19 2:24
20 1:19
21 1:04
22 1:27
23 2:44
24 4:30

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Das Wohltempierte Clavier - Band 1
1 1:33
2 2:05
3 1:01
4 4:03
5 0:53
6 2:55
7 2:16
8 2:09
9 1:20
10 2:39
11 1:21
12 2:51
13 1:13
14 2:28
15 1:01
16 4:21
17 1:13
18 1:53
19 2:57
20 3:34
21 1:05
22 2:20
23 5:48
24 8:31
25 1:42
26 1:21
27 1:07
28 1:03
29 1:03
blue highlight denotes track pick