Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2 (Excerpts)

Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2 (Excerpts)

For Piotr Anderszewski, Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier—made up of two books, each comprising 24 paired preludes and fugues—is a work of endless fascination. No stranger to playing Bach on the piano (this is the Polish pianist and composer’s fourth all-Bach album), Anderszewski here offers his own take on the so-called “48.” It was shaped, in part, by his experience hearing one of the books played in order—and feeling distinctly underwhelmed. “It’s not that I wasn’t convinced by the playing, but just by the experience,” Anderszewski tells Apple Music. “Sitting in an audience and listening to those pieces played chromatically for two and a half hours, I just thought, ‘In my view, it’s not designed for this.’ But I still feel I want to play these pieces and I want to share them.” So Anderszewski put together a sequence of 12 preludes and fugues in his own order, drawn from the second book. “I chose Book Two for several reasons,” he explains. “First of all, ever since childhood, I’ve played many more pieces from Book Two than Book One, so I’m much more familiar with them. Plus, Book Two was written at a much more sparse period of time, and it seems Bach was adding things and revising things almost right to the end. It’s less homogenous than Book One and I feel much more free to do this with it.” Where Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier works its way through the 24 major and minor keys starting with C major and ending with B minor, Anderszewski’s order is far more subjective—and less logical. His choice, he feels, creates something like the three acts of a play, with contrasts of mood and expression, tension and relaxation, and an overall shape that is far more “narrative” than simply following Bach’s strict order. (Though, interestingly, it opens and closes with the same pieces as the original.) “Changing the order of a work is something I rarely do because I’m usually quite conservative. But here, I really felt, ‘Why not do a very subjective order?’” he adds. “I think it compels you to want to listen to the pieces one after another.” The project started with a group of six preludes and fugues that Anderszewski put together for use in concert. “I experimented a lot with them and, once I was happy, played them often,” he recalls. “That order was very definite and I thought it really worked.” However, 12 preludes and fugues were needed to fill up the album, so in addition to Anderszewski’s tried-and-tested half-dozen, a second six had to be chosen. “I was still hesitating about which to add until a few months before the recording,” he says. “I had all these orders in my head that made sense. Then they stopped making sense—there was always some problem somewhere!” Eventually, it came down to the heart. “I was just trying to choose the pieces I really love the most,” he adds. Unlike some of his pianist colleagues, Anderszewski does not make a large number of recordings. How would he describe the experience of making this one? “Enjoy is not the word I would use,” he admits. “I shouldn’t say a sense of duty because it sounds horrible, but you are making something that will remain. And I take this very, very seriously. I want to be absolutely sure I’ve done my best. I want to feel that I’ve contributed something. I choose the pieces, but the pieces choose me as well.”

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada