What utterly hypnotic performances these are! Richter creates a different atmosphere for each prelude and fugue throughout this set. Was there ever a more "complete" pianist than Richter? He really had it all: astonishingly virtuoso technique, sensitive musicianship, and expressive poetry seemingly without limit.
I have had various WTC sets over the years: Martins, Fischer, Ruzickova (harpsichord), Tureck, Gould, and now Richter. If I could have just two, it would be Gould and Richter. Gould can be exasperating one moment and illuminating the next; his ear for polyphony was second to none, but unfortunately his constant vocalizing can get to be irritating. Richter, by contrast, is remarkably consistent: there are no real weak spots.
It is Richter's set that I would recommend to newcomers. Gould's Bach is more for those who are already familiar with the music, and who are willing to tolerate the occasional misfire and all the extraneous noises. I have heard only parts of the WTC recorded by Russian pianist Samuel Feinberg - it offers a relaxed and intimate perspective that is somewhere between Gould's and Richter's. So, if I can run down a copy of that elusive set, Feinberg will make three. But if my "desert island" turns out to be just a small sandbar, it is the Richter that will go there with me.