Only months after Deutsche Grammophon released Anne-Sophie Mutter's recording of Bach's violin concertos, Decca released Julia Fischer's recording of the same pieces. The similarities between the two discs run deeper than merely their shared repertoire. Both labels are branches of Universal Music Group and both violinists are individualistic German women, though Mutter is currently at the peak of her career while Fischer is just a bit past starting out. The differences, however, are likewise remarkable. The Deutsche Grammophon disc includes the world premiere of a new work by Sofia Gubaidulina dedicated to the violinist, while the Decca disc includes the more conventional coupling of Bach's Concerto for violin and oboe in C minor, BWV 1060.
In his recording of Bach's 48 Colin Tilney, unlike his fellow competitors in the same repertory, plays both a clavichord (Book 1) and a harpsichord (Book 2). Why not? Bach's title for the first book of 24 preludes and fugues, The Well-tempered Clavier leaves both this issue and that of tuning wide open. The clavichord was a favourite instrument of Bach's, so was the harpsichord and the organ; indeed, I am sorry that Tilney does not include a chamber organ since some of the pieces, the E major Prelude and Fugue (Book 2), for instance, seem well-suited to it. Tilney's performance of the 48 differs again from almost if not all others in the sequence which he adopts in playing the preludes and fugues. But an apparently random approach is in fact nothing of the kind, but one that is directly linked with tuning. We know that Bach himself was a master in matters of tuning as he was in all other aspects of his craft. What we do not know is the exact nature of his tuning.