John Butt - Bach WTC - McAlister Matheson Music

This is John Butt's first solo harpsichord recording for many years. Just as Angela Hewitt's recording of The Art of Fugue drew on her experience of playing all Bach's keyboard music, so Butt makes full use of his extensive academic and performing knowledge of Bach's choral, orchestral and instrumental works.

His very readable booklet essay demonstrates the breadth of his research, covering the ‘why' and ‘how' of the two Books' composition, setting them in the context of Bach's time, and discussing the variety and make-up of the preludes and fugues and his own approach to performing them.

Butt plays on the Dunedin Consort's copy of an early 1700s German harpsichord, an instrument that has a rich but soft-edged tone that is easy on the ear. Butt's performances are naturally light and lively, sometimes almost improvisatory in nature. In his hands, Book I's C major prelude and fugue display a French influence, and his flourishes in the D major fugue are spectacular, coming after a wonderfully fleet prelude.

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!

17 November 2014