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Well Tempered Clavier Book I BWV 846-869

Louis Thiry (Organ)

Louis Thiry's WTC (organ)

K-1

J.S. Bach: Le Clavier bien tempéré Intégrale

WTC 1: 24 Preludes & Fugues BWV 846-869 [132:00]
WTC 2: 24 Preludes & Fugues BWV 870-893 [120:12]

Louis Thiry (Organ)

Arion / Bolshoi/BMG

1972 [WTC 1]; 1975 [WTC 2]

4-CD / TT: 252:12

Recorded at Église Réformée d'Auteuil, Paris, France.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com


Neil Halliday wrote (August 25, 2004):
This 4-CD set demonstrates how well the WTC responds to performances on the organ; but overall, Thiry disappoints with his too frequent choice of registrations that are quiet, often 'breathy', unvarying, indistinct, with lines that are difficult to follow, especially in the bass, resulting in lifeless renditions that can become frankly
boring.

Best performances from Book I are:

1. C# major P&F, displaying an excellent, sparkling registration, in this lovely music.

2. D major P&F: appealing registration in the prelude (but the final adagio chords are weak). The fugue is a brilliant French overture, in this performance.

3. The D minor Prelude is given an allegro performance with a charming registration (but the final chords are weak; they should be forte, or stronger).

4. F major P&F; the prelude is given a brilliant allegro performance, and the fugue has clear lines with pleasing registration.

5. The F# major Prelude has a nice high-pitched registration, effective in this piece.

6. The G major fugue is brilliant, if a little too fast for easy comprehension of the subject and counter-subjects.

7. B flat minor P&F; the prelude is brilliant, demonstrating the capacity of the organ to make this type of virtuoso music come alive; and I like the way Thiry hits the punctuating adagio chords with a 'double forte' registration. This latter aspect is so different from the treatment throughout most of the other pieces, one imagines there is a different performer at the console. The fugue also has an effective, powerful registration.

Best performances in Book II are:

1. D major Prelude. This is true concert music; one imagines the full organ, with pedals, is being employed in this brilliant performance.

2. E major Fugue. Another majestic forte performance of this noble music.

3. G minor P&F. The forte registration is very effective in this powerful music.

4. A minor Fugue. This is a brilliant performance of a virtuoso piece.

The rest of the work varies from mildly to very disappointing (this latter especially in the case of many grand and/or noble fugues), mostly related to the choice of registration, as noted above.

 

Feedback to the Review

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 25, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< This 2 CD set demonstrates how well the WTC responds to performances on the organ; but overall, Thiry disappoints with his too frequent choice of registrations that are quiet, often 'breathy', unvarying, indistinct, with lines that are difficult to follow, especially in the bass, resulting in lifeless renditions that can become frankly boring. (...)
The rest of the work varies from mildly to very disappointing (this latter especially in the case of many grand and/or noble fugues), mostly related to the choice of registration, as noted above. >
Hmm. I like this Thiry set quite a bit, notwithstanding the several finger-slips (not very bothersome) and the use of an incorrect temperament choice (more bothersome, to me anyway). I especially *like* his registrations!

My detailed review of it earlier: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/13199

It's a 4-CD set, not 2, or at least it took 4 discs in the Arion 468306 issue....

Neil Halliday wrote (August 27, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<I like this Thiry set quite a bit>.
It seems the only piece drawing our common praise is the F# major Prelude Book I (for the attractive registration), and possibly the B flat major Prelude Book I (both 'second order' works in the overall scheme of the WTC); on the other hand, I suppose you also liked the pieces about which I spoke highly (those with a powerful, clear registration).

Yes, there is a rather grand build up to the 'coda' of the A minor Fugue Book I, but the pedal point itself (low A in the pedals) lacks the kind of power needed to 'bring the house down' for a really exciting conclusion.

And the registration for the very chromatic, and substantial, fugue ending Book I (B minor), while attractive, is too un-varied to do justice to this highly emotional piece, IMO.

Apologies for the error regarding the number of CD's in the set. There are indeed 4.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 27, 2004):
<<I like this Thiry set quite a bit>.>
< It seems the only piece drawing our common praise is the F# major Prelude Book I (for the attractive registration), and possibly the B flat major Prelude Book I (both 'second order' works in the overall scheme of the WTC); on the other hand, I suppose you also liked the pieces about which I spoke highly (those with a powerful, clear registration). >
"Second order?" Huh? Not sure what you mean by that....

< Yes, there is a rather grand build up to the 'coda' of the A minor Fugue Book I, but the pedal point itself (low A in the pedals) lacks the kind of power needed to 'bring the house down' for a really exciting conclusion. >
Huh? Isn't the addition of extra contrapuntal voices there, and the extreme chromaticism, exciting enough without doing overtly dramatic registrational tricks? So is the presence of a pedal-point, at all.

< And the registration for the very chromatic, and substantial, fugue ending Book I (B minor), while attractive, is too un-varied to do justice to this highly emotional piece, IMO. >
It's not the registration's fault; it's the use of equal temperament on that organ, dulling the effects of the piece to a consistently mediocre gray. Also, plenty of expression can be done with careful control of articulation and timing, without the additional broadsword of registrational changes during pieces.......

Neil Halliday wrote (August 29, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<"Second order?" Huh? Not sure what you mean by that....>
Simply, not having the emotional and spiritual depth of many of the more 'substantial' pieces; the musical impact of the 'lighter', briefer pieces (that's all I meant by "second" order pieces) possibly being easier to agree upon...

<Isn't the addition of extra contrapuntal voices there, and the extreme chromaticism, exciting enough without doing overtly dramatic registrational tricks?>
Why not employ all the instrument's power (consistent with maintaining clarity of line, and good taste), for this inherently powerful conclusion? My impression is that the power is missing in the pedals just when it is most required. (This is a performance on an organ, not a piano or harpsichord; so let's take advantage of the organ's qualities/abilities when we can).
__________

I suspect my musical tastes are too firmly rooted in the 20th century to respond to the impact of a specific temperament, eg, in the B minor Fugue (Book I). I am invariably distracted by temperaments (if I notice them at all) other than equal temperament, especially on the organ. Hence my preference is for exploring different registrations, in order to achieve (the appropriate) musical impact for a specific piece. I acknowledge the importance of articulation and phrasing.

One of the strengths, for me, of this Thiry set, is the equal temperament. I don't need the excitement and power of his D major Prelude Book II, for example, to be 'changed' into another temperament that merely distracts (to my ears, anyway) from the substance of the music.

[BTW, notice the thematic similarity of the 'episodes' of the B minor Fugue in question (bars 17 - 20, etc.) with acertain late Beethoven string quartet movement (is it the C# minor quartet?)].

Re the other factor that causes me most concern in this set (apart from registration) namely, speed, would you play the C# major P&F Book II as fast as Thiry?

The Prelude (first section) seems to meander aimlessly at this fast speed, missing as it does - from an 'audible' viewpoint - the striking progress of complex chords set in a definite rhythmic structure; and the Fugue certainly misses out on some of the majesty implied by the "molto moderato e maestoso" editorial suggestion in the Augener edition. (More post 18th century considerations, perhaps...).

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 29, 2004):
<<"Second order?" Huh? Not sure what you mean by that....>>
< Simply, not having the emotional and spiritual depth of many of the more 'substantial' pieces; the musical impact of the 'lighter', briefer pieces (that's all I meant by "second" order pieces) possibly being easier to agree upon... >
I feel that the WTC is not "second order" music in any way. Not even any single bar of it.

< I suspect my musical tastes are too firmly rooted in the 20th century to respond to the impact of a specific temperament, eg, in the B minor Fugue (Book I). I am invariably distracted by temperaments (if I notice them at all) other than equal temperament, especially on the organ. >
Other unequal temperaments are indeed distracting because they're wrong for the music: individual notes or phrases stick out more than they should, with an effect of randomness. Like a color print from a color painting, with subtly or horribly wrong color balances of the cyan/magenta/yellow/black, or too much saturation, or too little. But, a black and white print (i.e. equal temperament) from the color painting is just as much a distortion, if only of a different kind; information is lost and/or twisted.

What do you think of the film "Amelie", in which the colors are deliberately over-saturated and unbalanced? (The producers discuss this on the bonus features of the DVD set....) What would "Schindler's List" be, visually, without its red moment? There's also a Hitchcock film that makes a startling use of red in an otherwise black-and-white context. Part of the message in any of these would be lost, if the playback medium distorts or removes the color content.

< One of the strengths, for me, of this Thiry set, *is* the equal temperament. I don't need the excitement and power of his D major Prelude Book II, for example, to be 'changed' into another temperament that merely distracts (to my ears, anyway) from the substance of the music. >
But, the piece is even MORE exciting and powerful when the instrument is tuned the right way; the "substance of the music" is even more immediately apparent. (Bach knew what he was doing; he wrote a piece that shows off his temperament's D major sound and character.) By contrast, it's just a washout in equal temperament...where the "excitement" and "power" have to be added more artificially, since the intonation's not helping it any.

< Re the other factor that causes me most concern in this set (apart from registration) namely, speed, would you play the C# major P&F Book II as fast as Thiry? >
No. That one seems much too fast to me, too. But, given that the equal temperament has already washed much of the character out of the music (already sending us halfway down the road toward deadly equipollence), one might as well rush through to get it over with. Definitely not an optimal situation; Thiry has made a reasonable enough choice given the circumstances. His headlong speed there in the C# major compensates at least somewhat for the spice that is lacking.

Xavier Otazu wrote (August 30, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] This CD set is really great! Just from the moment I listened it the first time, my view of WTC changed dramatically!!! It is 'crystal clear' that WTC is not exclusively composed for one instrument. Those who only play/listen to them in the hapsichord or the piano are loosing a lot of wonders.

Unfortunately this is the only organ WTC version I have. I know there exist the Bernard Lagace version, but I've not get it.

Does somebody know how many (avaliable) versions on organ of WTC exists?

Roy Johansen wrote (August 30, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< But, the piece is even MORE exciting and powerful when the instrument is tuned the right way; the "substance of the music" is even more immediately apparent. (Bach knew what he was doing; he wrote a piece that shows off his temperament's D major sound and character.) By contrast, it's just a washout in equal temperament...where the "excitement" and "power" have to be added more artificially, since the intonation's not helping it any. >
I really agree with you; the extra spice of unequal (but "well") temperament adds a lot of interest to the pieces, but isn't there evidence that Bach transposed certain of the preludes and fugues to "complete" the sets?

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 30, 2004):
< I really agree with you; the extra spice of unequal (but "well") temperament adds a lot of interest to the pieces, but isn't there evidence that Bach transposed certain of the preludes and fugues to "complete" the sets? >
Yes. But, transposition (whether of a whole piece, or even from phrase to phrase within a single piece as it moves along, modulating) is a musical transformation. It causes a change of character; not necessarily better or worse, but "merely" and perceptibly different.

If some pieces started their lives in some different key, so what? Different aspects of them emerge in their present keys. Another good example here is the Partita that was originally in C minor, transposed to B minor for publication in Clavieruebung II. It sounds equally good in both keys (tuned Bach's way!), but entirely different. In a philosophical sense it's an entirely different piece, due to that basic transformation of the transposition...in addition to the other details Bach changed in it, along the way...!

The appropriate tuning doesn't "add" a lot of interest to the pieces. It reveals it. Equal temperament, for its own part, "removes" a lot of interest from pieces, reducing a huge variety of intervallic content down to a much smaller collection of discrete steps. It all depends how one looks at this!

Roy Johansen wrote (August 30, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< If some pieces started their lives in some different key, so what? Different aspects of them emerge in their present keys. >
Yes, I agree, but it does negate the theory (I'm not saying it's yours), that some works were written with a certain key in mind, or that a certain key "inspired" precisely *these* kinds of modulations.

< The appropriate tuning doesn't "add" a lot of interest to the pieces. It reveals it. Equal temperament, for its own part, "removes" a lot of interest from pieces, reducing a huge variety of intervallic content down to a much smaller collection of discrete steps. It all depends how one looks at this! >
Exactly! I first heard most of Bach's keyboard works performed on equal-tempered instruments (pianos and organs), and I'll never forget the first time I attended a recital in a church that had an organ tuned to Werckmeister II. It was quite a revelation. --So to me, it's always going to be a question of "addition" rather than "removal".

 

Well Tempered Clavier Book I, BWV 846-869: Details
Recordings:
Until 1950 | 1951-1960 | 1961-1970 | 1971-1980 | 1981-1990 | 1991-2000 | From 2001
Comparative Review:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
Reviews of Individual Recordings:
WTC I - D. Barenboim [D. Satz] | WTC I - D. Barenboim [P. Bright] | WTC I - T. Fellner | WTC I - E. Fischer | WTC I - M. Horszowski | WTC I - C. Jaccottet | WTC I - R. Kirkpatrick | WTC I - T. Koopman | WTC I - W. Landowska | WTC I - R. Levin | WTC I - O. Mustonen | WTC I - E. Parmentier | WTC I - S. Richter | WTC I - S. Schepkin
General Discussions:
Part 1
Discussions of Individual Recordings:
WTC I - T. Fellner
Well Tempered Clavier Book II, BWV 870-893: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9
WTC II - D. Barenboim [P. Bright] | WTC II - G. Cooper | WTC II - F. Gulda | WTC II - A. Hewitt | WTC II - R. Kirkpatrick | WTC II - J. Middleton
Well Tempered Clavier Books I&II, BWV 846-893: WTC I&II - B.v. Asperen, S. Ross & G. Wilson | WTC I&II - E. Crochet | WTC I&II - O. Dantone | WTC I&II S. Feinberg | WTC II&II - T. Nikolayeva | WTC II&II - L. Thiry [N. Halliday] | WTC I&II - Z. Ruzickova


Louis Thiry: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Louis Thiry's WTC (organ)


Instrumental Works: Recordings, Reviews & Discussions - Main Page | Order of Discussion
Recording Reviews of Instrumental Works: Main Page | Organ | Keyboard | Solo Instrumental | Chamber | Orchestral, MO, AOF
Performers of Instrumental Works: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z



 

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