August 2006

Bach - The Well Tempered Clavier, Books I & II
Evelyne Crochet, piano
Music & Arts CD-1180
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Richard Freed

Musical Performance *****
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment *****

Musicians have always cherished The Well Tempered Clavier. Mozart transcribed portions of it for string trio; Beethoven kept this music at his bedside and used it in his teaching. Over the years, it has figured in the lessons and repertoire of innumerable celebrated pianists and harpsichordists. The most successful pianists have not tried to imitate the sound of the harpsichord: some, indeed, have persuaded us that the music was"foreordained" for the modern piano. None, in my hearing, has been more all-round persuasive than Evelyne Crochet, and none has seemed more fully identified with the work.

Years ago Crochet made appealing recordings for Vox of some of Schubert’s piano duets with Alfred Brendel, and some of Fauré’s solo piano works, but she never amassed a large discography or became a "celebrity" in the ordinary sense. To her fellow musicians, however, it will come as no surprise that this set simply and clearly calls for the top recommendation among recordings of the WTC. The performance was shaped by a lifetime of constantly deepening understanding of the music, from Crochet’s childhood through her studies with Yvonne Lefebure, Edwin Fischer and Rudolf Serkin, and in her own public presentations.

The dual heroes in bringing it to us are Crochet herself, who recorded it on her own six years ago, offering it on her website, and Fred Maroth, who discovered it there and determined to circulate it via a four-CD set on his Music & Arts label. The recording, produced by the late Joanna Nickrenz and engineered by Marc Aubort, is beautifully attuned to the music itself and the exceptionally warm tone of its truly remarkable champion.