Michael Houstoun

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

New Zealand pianist Michael Houstoun performs Johann Sebastian Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier, complete, in performances recorded over two nights in the Music Theatre of the University of Auckland in May 2017.

 

Michael's Titles

As Michael Houstoun explains in the interview, preparing to play 96 pieces involves a very deep delving into the essential character of each one. This has led him to giving them all short descriptions - or 'pseudo-titles', as he calls them. He offers these as a possible spur to a listener's imagination but stresses that they need not be taken as definitive or even too seriously. With his kind permission, we give them here.

Book One

C major
Prelude: Essence – Purity
Fugue: Awakening

C minor
Prelude: Grim determination
Fugue: Adamant

C sharp major
Prelude: Sylph dance
Fugue: Sunshine

C sharp minor
Prelude: Lamentoso
Fugue: Omens

D major
Prelude: Dragonfly
Fugue: Graduation

D minor
Prelude: Night ride
Fugue: Creeping anxiety

E flat major
Prelude: Splendour
Fugue: Surprise

E flat/D sharp minor
Prelude: The Weight of Sorrow
Fugue: Legend

E major
Prelude: Pastoral charm
Fugue: Giddyup

E minor
Prelude: Scena
Fugue: Storm

F major
Prelude: Scamper
Fugue: Passepied

F minor
Prelude: River of Despond
Fugue: Thou Shalt Not

F sharp major
Prelude: Playing around
Fugue: Sing

F sharp minor
Prelude: Treadmill
Fugue: Uphill

G major
Prelude: Fresh air
Fugue: Robust dance

G minor
Prelude: Wistful
Fugue: Stern advice

A flat major
Prelude: Domestic dance
Fugue: Nobility of the Quotidian

G sharp minor
Prelude: Failed aspiration
Fugue: Grim tale

A major
Prelude: Ambivalence
Fugue: Dancing on the head of a pin

A minor
Prelude: Thickening the plot
Fugue: Implacable

B flat major
Prelude: The lark ascending and descending
Fugue: Citation

B flat minor
Prelude: Road to Golgotha
Fugue: Bottomless pit

B major
Prelude: Above the clouds
Fugue: Embracing

B minor
Prelude and Fugue: The Passion according to J.S.Bach

Book Two

C major
Prelude: The Universe as a Temple
Fugue: Invitation to Joy (birthright)

C minor
Prelude: The dark wheel spins
Fugue: Unhappy resignation

C sharp major
Prelude: Invisible aria
Fugue: Rustic dance, jollity

C sharp minor
Prelude: Sorrow as Consolation
Fugue: Whirling

D major
Prelude: Processional
Fugue: Alms giving

D minor
Prelude: Vehement imprecations
Fugue: What goes up...

E flat major
Prelude: Regal elegance
Fugue: Affirmation (Beethoven)

D sharp minor
Prelude: Agreeing to disagree
Fugue: Hopes are dashed

E major
Prelude: Angelic benediction
Fugue: Holy, holy, holy

E minor
Prelude: The edge of hysteria
Fugue: Bravado

F major
Prelude: Organ playing in the empty cathedral
Fugue: Dance of smiles

F minor
Prelude: Private droplets
Fugue: Stern warning

F sharp major
Prelude: Gracious wife
Fugue: Hearty husband

F sharp minor
Prelude: Poignancy
Fugue: Reality of Sorrow

G major
Prelude: Water
Fugue: Crenellations

G minor
Prelude: Cortege
Fugue: Fatal declamation

A flat major
Prelude: Eloquence
Fugue: Human perfection

G sharp minor
Prelude: Petulant tale
Fugue: Cul-de-sac

A major
Prelude: Pastoral blessing
Fugue: Playful happiness

A minor
Prelude: Maybe...maybe not
Fugue: Angels of Destruction

B flat major
Prelude: Lyric pleasure
Fugue: Persuasive conversation

B flat minor
Prelude: Narration of Sorrow
Fugue: Day of Judgement

B major
Prelude: Be of good cheer
Fugue: Eternal aspiration

B minor
Prelude: Quandary
Fugue: Mocking dance