Related Reviews
Classical.net
'Butt's performance is magisterial...'
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International Record Review
IRR Outstanding: ‘John Butt's Olympian traversal is destined to be remembered…as a significant and enduring musical landmark. Be under no illusions – this is a colossal and revelatory feat, and a major addition both to the current Bach discography and to contemporary performance scholarship.’
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Early Music Review
'The overall effect is exhilarating and Butt's formidable technique means that one is made very aware of the keyboard virtuosity for which Bach was known, just as much as for the compositional complexity of the fugues.'
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MusicWeb International
'I am in awe of Butt's keyboard prowess.'
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All About Jazz
'Butt's playing is reverent, precise and accurate.'
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BBC Music Magazine
4 Stars
'[John Butt's] account of Bach's 48 preludes and fugues is illuminating and thought provoking.'
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Klassiekezaken
'Een heel spannende uitvoering dus, gespeeld op een fraai instrument en ook nog eens schitterend opgenomen.' / 'A very exciting performance therefore, played on a beautiful instrument and another included magnificent.'
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Gramophone
'Butt offers plenty of food for thought, along with his own extensive annotations discussing both the music and issues of performance practice.'
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CD Choice
'John Butt makes the best case for this music on a harpsichord.'
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The Times
4 Stars
'John Butt has the scholarly credentials to rethink how the 48 preludes and fugues should be performed, and the nimble fingers to translate his theories into impeccable clear readings on the harpsichord.'
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Taipei Times
'...supreme incisiveness and clarity...'
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The Herald Scotland
'...there is brawn, wit and chutzpah behind pretty much everything [Butt] does.'
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AllMusic
5 Stars
'Editor's Choice': 'John Butt's set on Linn warrants attention, not only for being a rarity, but more importantly for the extraordinary quality of his interpretations...Highly recommended.'
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The Guardian
'assertive and muscular'
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McAlister Matheson Music
'I gained especial pleasure from Book II which came alive under Butt’s fingers, musically varied and not in the least dry or academic. Recommended!'
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The Scotsman
4 Stars
‘Butt’s infectious interpretations are as dazzling as they are intellectually challenging…a box of heavenly delights.’
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John Butt - Bach WTC - Limelight


09 February 2015
Limelight
Philip Clark
5 Stars

BACK-TO-BASICS BACH
Butt's Well-Tempered is surely as Johann Sebastian intended.

By refusing to ally himself to the received wisdom that Bach always sounds best on an ocean-going modern grand piano, John Butt gives us a Well-Tempered Clavier performed on harpsichord and instantly we're teleported back to an ancient, shady world of tuning that feels as alien to our modern experience as water divining, those harmonic ripples causing the basics of familiar musical gesture to flow in ways which are utterly unexpected, but that also feel instinctively right as Bach swims in appropriate waters again.

When performed on the sort of grand piano that does Brahms or Rachmaninov favours, the Well-Tempered. Clavier becomes frozen in time, like an adjunct to Classicism or Romanticism, more a hook for our convenience as it turns out because that is the historical prism through which we're most comfortable hearing anything vaguely 'Classical'. Bach, though, had precisely nothing to do with that Classical milieu, and Butt, playing on a facsimile of a harpsichord built during the first decade of the 1700s, plugs us back into the archaic world into which this music was actually born.

Which is a bracingly radical, forward-thinking stance for a Bach interpreter to take. Even something as glaringly familiar as the Prelude No 1 in C, as layers of 19th-century expressive varnish are stripped away, can become bracingly new, a construct as ripe for discovery as a composition by Xenakis. At three hours thirty, this is a long listen - but good! Buy this set, imbibe carefully, and you'll hear Bach's music evolve in its own internal time. Butt's informed take on the past a future in itself.

Those triadic patterns we know so well are, to pull an analogy from film, lit differently. Move away from the homogenisation of modern-day equal tempered tuning and the vibrations between notes opens up. This can, admittedly, be a shock.

The expected ribbons of seamless arpeggios mutate into a pathway less certain and texturally bumpier. Chromatic notes grind against the underlying tonality. Musical material is placed in tension with the instrument; the bouldering, sped-up semi-quaver muscularity of the C Minor Prelude (Book 1) leaves the harpsichord wheezing; in Book 2, the flâneur chromatic inclines of the D Minor Fugue sound deliciously gamey and deviant - enough to make you sigh with painful pleasure.


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