|1. Prelude And Fugue No.1 In C Major, BWV 870: Praeludium|
|2. Prelude And Fugue No.1 In C Major, BWV 870: Fuga|
|3. Prelude And Fugue No. 2 In C Minor, BWV 871: Praeludium|
|4. Prelude And Fugue No. 2 In C Minor, BWV 871: Fuga|
|5. Prelude And Fugue No. 3 In C-Sharp Major, BWV 872: Praeludium|
|6. Prelude And Fugue No. 3 In C-Sharp Major, BWV 872: Fuga|
|7. Prelude And Fugue No. 4 In C-Sharp Minor, BWV 873: Praeludium|
|8. Prelude And Fugue No. 4 In C-Sharp Minor, BWV 873: Fuga|
|9. Prelude And Fugue No. 5 In D Major, BWV 874: Praeludium|
|10. Prelude And Fugue No. 5 In D Major, BWV 874: Fuga|
See all 24 tracks on this disc
|1. Prelude And Fugue No. 13 In F-Sharp Major, BWV 882: Praeludium|
|2. Prelude And Fugue No. 13 In F-Sharp Major, BWV 882: Fuga|
|3. Prelude And Fugue No. 14 In F-Sharp Minor, BWV 883: Praeludium|
|4. Prelude And Fugue No. 14 In F-Sharp Minor, BWV 883: Fuga|
|5. Prelude And Fugue No. 15 In G Major, BWV 884: Praeludium|
|6. Prelude And Fugue No. 15 In G Major, BWV 884: Fuga|
|7. Prelude And Fugue No. 16 In G Minor, BWV 885: Praeludium|
|8. Prelude And Fugue No. 16 In G Minor, BWV 885: Fuga|
|9. Prelude And Fugue No. 17 In A-Flat Major, BWV 886: Praeludium|
|10. Prelude And Fugue No. 17 In A-Flat Major, BWV 886: Fuga|
See all 24 tracks on this disc
Gould learned Book 1 from his mother at a rather young age. He seems to have mastered Book 2 himself. In addition, by the time he recorded most of Book 2, the characteristics of his piano had changed. It had been damaged in an accident and when it was rebuilt, the action was a bit slower than it had been originally. This might account for the slightly slower tempos of Book 2, though it is equally possible that the more profound and spiritual nature of the music itself is responsible. In any event the preludes and especially the fugues of Book 2 seemed to interest Gould more than Book 1. He rarely performed anything from Book 1 after his complete recording, while he often performed selections from Book 2. For example, he has four versions that I could locate of the fugue in E major BWV 878 from Book 2. The performances each time are radically different from each other. On the recording of the complete WTC he takes the fugue very fast. On his video performance with Bruno Monsaingeon, for the CBC (and available on a Sony laser disc SLV 48426) he plays it at about half the speed. As a matter of fact, when Gould records a piece more than once, I have never found the performances to be the same.
The bottom line for me is whether you prefer Edwin Fisher's recording from the 1930's on EMI, or Richter's on Le Chant du Monde which has such a difficult sound but such a stimulating performance, or Schiff on Decca/London with what I consider to be his politically correct, though brilliant performance, or someone else, like Feltsman, you should include Book 2 played by Gould in your collection. Bach is so great that no single performance can plumb his depths. As you get to love this music more and more, you will simply have to own performances with multiple perspectives. This one must be among them - perhaps chief among them as it was for me.
The Well Tempered Clavier (WTC) consists of two books, both of which are comprised of a prelude and fugue written in each of the major and minor keys of western music. Because there are twelve major keys, and twelve related minor keys, each book of the WTC is comprised of 24 prelude and fugues. One enjoyable aspect of the WTC for the new listener is that, because all of the major and minor keys are presented in a systematic way, one is able to discern what is most appealing to the listener's unique sensibilities. Perhaps you will find that you prefer major to minor, or vice versa. Perhaps you will find a handful of key signatures that you think are preferable, and that can be the foundation for further exploration into other pieces of music written in the same key.
I own a number of recordings of J.S. Bach's WTC. I happen to like book II better than book I, and this rendition is undoubtedly my favorite of them all. Gould's sense of rhythm is impeccable, and it is that aspect that makes this recording so stunning. The pulse is extraordinary, the ornamentation is played with extreme verve, and Gould's technical abilities and musicianship are more than adequate to keep strict time throughout. I also really appreciate the fact that Gould keeps his foot off the pedal, unlike Richter, or Fischer, or any number of the other standard recordings. A powerful and distinct rhythmic momentum should be felt throughout these works. It is also essential to maintain the clarity of each voice, and the pedal, or reverberation in general, can obscure both rhythm and clarity in the context of polyphonic music. Gould is able to bring distinctness to each voice in a way that is entirely unique.
With that said, Gould does have some singular ideas about tempo. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. For an incredible example of when it works, listen to to his remarkable rendering of the prelude and the fugue in C#-Major. Both, but particularly the fugue, are taken at extremely slow tempos. The result is extraordinary. This is hands down my favorite recording of Bach's WTC. In my opinion, no other recording compares to this one.