The Old Testament of keyboard music, as it’s well-known, and readily played on every instrument with black and white keys, from the kind of tiny house clavichord on which Bach probably wrote much of The Well-Tempered Clavier, to modern accordions and synthesisers. And yet Daniele Boccaccio’s new recording is the only one presently available to be played on Bach’s own instrument, the organ. Boccaccio is not the first to do so, and it’s hardly an iconoclastic gesture. As he points out in his booklet-note, several preludes and fugues, especially in Book 2 (written over a decade after the First), suggest that the organ was the (or at least an) intended instrument for their legato figuration and long-held notes.
The maverick scholar and musician Robert Levin recorded a Well-Tempered Clavier on four different instruments, including clavichord, two-manual harpsichord, chamber organ and even fortepiano, but Boccaccio has elected one instrument for his journey through this compilation which tests the limits of a keyboard player’s technique and imagination like no other. The instrument of S. Antonio Abate in Padua was built by Francesco Zanin and has been used for many recordings since its inauguration in 2006, including on Brilliant Classics.
Boccaccio freely admits he has used the full colouristic capabilities of the instrument: ‘I tried to make the performance as varied as possible from the tonal point of view, merging together all the available colours of the organ stops, according to the technical and stylistic suggestions of the time.’ He has form in Bach on Brilliant before, accompanying Patxi Montero in the sonatas for viola da gamba (BC95042) and then playing his own, strikingly original transcriptions of the violin concertos (BC94829).
Bach’s famous Well-tempered Clavier, recorded for the first time on organ!
Bach’s immortal 48 Preludes and Fugues in all major and minor keys was written for Clavier, and in Bach’s time that could mean any keyboard instrument: harpsichord, clavichord or organ. There is no indication in the entire score which precludes a performance on the organ. The great advantage of the organ is that the notes are sustained, which enhances the harmonic and contrapuntal writing to a great extent. The long bass notes, which on the harpsichord die out quickly, keep their strength on the organ, maintaining the harmonic power.
Daniele Boccaccio is one of the foremost Italian keyboard players, he already successfully recorded his own arrangement of Bach’s violin concertos for organ (BC 94829) which was very favourably reviewed in the press. He plays on a beautiful Francesco Zanin organ, built in 2006, the details of which are included in the booklet.