BACH’s WTC II on an extraordinary FORTEPIANO
by Gottfried Silbermann (copy by Kerstin Schwarz)
Original time – Original sound
Das Wohltemperirte Clavier, a collection of preludes and fugues in all major and minor keys completed by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1722, was clearly modelled along the lines of Ariadne Musica by Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer (1662-1746, Kapellmeister in Baden from 1715 to 1746) – an organ music anthology published for the first time in 1702 and probably known by Bach in its second 1715 edition. Bach took Fischer’s original layout of 20 keys and expanded it to a total of 24, thereby creating the first self-contained collection of music written for the entire corpus of existing keys.
Bach, who, on the handwritten title page of the beautiful copy now preserved in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (Mus. Ms. P 415), signed as Hochf. Anhalt-Cöthenischen Capel-Meistern und Directore derer Cammer Musiquen, clearly indicated his purpose in composing this incomparable collection: “for the profit of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study.” ………..
Regarding the instrument we have chosen for this recording of Vol. II, we have selected a copy by Kerstin Schwarz of the fortepiano built by Gottfried Silbermann in 1749, now preserved in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg. In recent years a clearer picture has emerged of Bach’s instrumentarium, and one can infer that in the last ten years of his life he had a Silbermann fortepiano at his disposal. By then he regarded it as a valid alternative to the harpsichord, the clavichord, and the Lautenwerck, which, taken together, embodied the generic term Clavier. Silbermann, for his part, relied on Bach’s assistance as Cantor to help him sell his valuable instruments (a fortepiano cost as much as a Capellmeister’s annual salary!), and he was entirely indebted to Bartolomeo Cristofori for the design of his fortepiano mechanism, which he later applied to the robust makeup of harpsichords of late German build.
This recording of the Zweyter Theil of Das Wohltemperirte Clavier is dedicated to her memory as well to her husband, the late Paul Badura-Skoda (*1927 †2019), incomparable pianist and soloist on historical fortepianos.Version A: after the original manuscript, London (1742)
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and hundreds of cantatas. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.
Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest in and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.