Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Bach's Way

Some guy from the local DVD Exchange is the Boo Radley of Cool Beans, my coffeehouse of choice: he tries to drum up trade by leaving behind an assortment of free items, most of them crap. Yesterday, though, he dropped off a real find: an old RCA mono album of the legendary Wanda Landowska performing Book 1, preludes and fugues No. 1-8 of Bach's "Well-Tempered Klavier."

I have the whole Klavier thing on iTunes, performed on piano by Edwin Fischer, and have listened to it often while writing. I am given to understand that Fischer and Landowska were genius interepreters, so I'll leave distinctions between the two to the refined ear crowd. Landowska's harpsichord playing is meticulously beautiful and beautifully meticulous, and hearing it is a perfect way to start a weekday.

Richard Weiner of Audiophile Audition tells a great story about the late performer:
"For many years Wanda Landowska was the reigning interpreter of the Bach keyboard repertoire. One day she was discussing how to perform a piece with one of her contemporaries. They disagreed; tempers flared. The argument grew hotter and hotter until Landowska finally snapped, “You play it your way, dear, and I’ll perform it his.”

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