Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Well Tempered Clavier, Book I (1722), Book 2 (1738-42)
Evelyne Crochet (piano)
Recorded Academy of Arts & Letters,
New York City, September 2000
Released March 2006
Music & Arts 1180 [4cds - 65:45 + 67:03 + 63:49 + 62:59]
Comparisons: Aldwell/Nonesuch, Feinberg/Russian Disc, Fellner/Erato,
Fischer/Naxos, Gould/Sony, Gulda/Philips, Richter/RCA, Schepkin/Ongaku,
Tureck/DG and BBC
Beauty, elgance and exquisite pianism grace the new set of Bach's
complete Well-Tempered Clavier played by Evelyne Crochet. Although
relatively obscure, this native of France has been performing in concert
and on records since the early 1960's. Crochet's repertoire covers a
wide spectrum from Baroque to 20th century music, and she has championed
the piano music of Faure and Satie; her 1960's set for Vox of the complete
Faure piano works remains a landmark of the composer's discography.
Crochet currently lives and teaches privately in New York City.
After listening to Crochet's Faure recordings in addition to her
Well-Tempered Clavier, I have to say that she was born to play the piano.
In her Bach set, the chords are perfectly formed, rhythms are gracious,
and she is fantastic at floating a note. Every aspect of the performance
is beautiful as Crochet presents a natural progression of each prelude
There are a few features that other Bach pianists convey that Crochet
chooses not to involve herself in. There isn't any strong Gould-like
propulsion, contours are not sharp, the bleak terrains offered by Tureck
are rather mild in Crochet's hands, and the majesty and power so prevalent
in Richter's performances are only in the moderate level from Crochet.
I find the most significant failing to be Crochet's reluctance to vary
tempo and pacing within each piece of music; you definitely won't find
in her interpretations any use of hesitations or the staggering of musical
Yet, I love her Book II where she uses her unsentimental legato to
wonderful effect in Bach's chromatic music. With Crochet, I hear "rays
of light" from the chromatic architecure that I've never heard from any
other version of Book II. There's no doubt in my mind that her strength
is legato playing with a relatively light touch. Also, her terracing
of rhythmic lines and supple phrasing take a backseat to no other
recording of the work.
Book I is not as successful. Here, Crochet engages in more variety of
touch and articulation. In most cases, this would be all to the good.
But Crochet is not very effective playing notes in a detached manner.
I should report that the reviewer for American Record Guide found Crochet
more compelling in Book I for her greater variety of articulation. Again,
I have to say that this variety takes Crochet out of her comfort zone.
Is Crochet too limiting? Not really. She can "power-up" when necessary,
and she sharpens her contours when the music requires such application.
However, the performances take off into transcendent realms when her
legato intersects with Bach's dense chromatic structures. As for the
sonics, they are on the rich side but with sufficient clarity and
Don's Conclusions: I treasure this set for Crochet's uplifting performance
of Book II and consider it one of the best on record; Book I is merely
very good. Overall, this 4-CD set is excellent and not far behind the
exceptional piano versions listed in the heading.
Whether or not you acquire the Crochet set, you owe it to yourself to
become intimate with perhaps the most magnificent body of keyboard music
ever composed. What we have here is a virtual compendium of style and
architecture known in Bach's time as well as the widest array of emotional
content I've heard from any keyboard music. Add in heavenly melodies
and emotional depth that speaks from the abyss, and the result is hours
of reveling in 96 pieces of music that stay with you for days on end.
Evelyne Crochet is a breathtaking guide in Book II, and that's sufficient
to warrant the price of admission. Further, readers who love their Bach
played in legato fashion should consider Crochet a mandatory item for
their Bach library.
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