A previously unreleased live concert recording of Keith Jarrett performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 is out now. The live concert was recorded in March 1987 at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in New York state, a venue renowned for its beautiful acoustics. Keith Jarrett’s studio recording of JS Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier was made one month before the live concert recording, in February 1987, and was the first in a series of his acclaimed Bach recordings.
When the studio album was released, Jarrett’s manner in these iconic preludes and fugues surprised many listeners with its poetic restraint. Jarrett said, “When I play Bach, I do not hear the music, I hear almost the process of thought.” The pianist was deeply attuned to what he called “the process of thought” in Bach; by not imposing his personality unduly on the music, Jarrett allowed every note of the score to come through via the natural lyricism of the contrapuntal melodic lines, the dance-like pulse of the rhythmic flow. These qualities are strikingly apparent in Keith Jarrett’s live recording of The Well-Tempered Clavier, with its added electricity of a concert performance. Jarrett always points out that Bach was an improviser and, in some ways, Jarrett’s genius as an improviser brings him closer in spirit to the composer.
“These are performances in which tempos, phrasing, articulation and the execution of ornaments are convincing,” wrote Gramophone of Keith Jarrett’s first recorded account of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier. “Both instrument and performer serve as unobtrusive media through which the music emerges without enhancement.”
The Well-Tempered Clavier
JS Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier is a collection of two books of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys. Down through the ages this music has been a signal influence on composers from Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin to Brahms, Shostakovich and beyond. The music is as expressive as it is acutely instructive and the collection is generally regarded as being among the most important works in the history of classical music. The Well-Tempered Clavier comprehensively reassessed the approach not only to playing the keyboard, but to composition in general.
Keith Jarrett is an American jazz and classical pianist and composer. He is considered to be one of the most original and prolific jazz musicians to emerge during the late 20th century. His discography embraces solo improvisation, duets, trios, quartets, original compositions, multi-instrumental ventures, masterpieces of the classical repertoire and wide-ranging explorations of the Great American Songbook. Keith Jarrett’s multi-million selling album The Köln Concert is the best-selling piano recording of all time. Few jazz artists have so richly explored classical repertoire – from Bach and Mozart to Shostakovich, Bartók, Barber and more – as Jarrett. Reviewing Jarrett’s 1992 Shostakovich set, The New York Times declared: “Even in our multicultural, multistylistic age, it is still extremely difficult to cross over from one field to another. Mr. Jarrett, having long since established himself in jazz, can now be called a classical pianist of the first rank.”
Keith Jarrett’s live recording of JS Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 is out now and can be bought here.