Johann Sebastian Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Pianist: Albert Landa, ABC Classics 476 4556

I never tire of listening to the “48” for they hold an incredible spiritual sense, deriving, I suspect, from Bach masterfully working in all 24 keys (12 major and 12 minor) with inspired polyphonic intricacy. Listening (and playing) these works can give an experience, not only to the soul and intellect, that is profound.

Australian pianist Albert Landa has, as he has described it, “climbed Mt Everest”.

“I’d learned a few of these pieces as a child”, he said, “but back then Bach was thought of as dry, dusty and scholarly, but with increasing maturity I came to realise just how alive and filled with creativity and humanity these works are. So I was attracted by the challenge of learning all 48 and this coincided with my withdrawal, Glenn-Gould-like, from performing in concerts, so I turned my attention to recording them instead.”

Collected in a 4 CD set, the over 4 hours of music was recorded on a Steinway Model B at a private Sydney home. As with any recordings of Bach by pianists, it is a highly personal statement, full of the performer’s own insight into the remarkable ourvre. Putting aside the acoustic qualities that are somewhat different to the clinical studio sound, the use of expressive devices, judicious use of pedal, this complete recorded set has much to offer any student, teacher or music lover. Landa brings to life what for some may still be dusty and scholarly works. He infuses character and searches his own soul for the right artistic response from this great Baroque master.

“Some of the pieces embody the sheer joy of the keyboard and the virtuosity of playing it, while others are so profound they could be taken straight from the St Matthew Passion. Like Mt Everest, this music is aloof, terrifying and you have to respect it, but it is also filled with glorious insight into the soul and spirit of existence,” said Landa.

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