Although J.S. Bach's orchestral music has been transcribed for guitar ensemble before, notably selected Brandenburg Concertos by the De Falla Trio and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, this is the first recording of the four suites for orchestra that I have heard in a setting of this type; it is not a source of material that readily springs to mind for such treatment and certainly purists would decry such practices.
Karl Richter’s recordings of Bach’s orchestral and sacred music influenced an entire generation of musicians and listeners, presenting the conductor’s unique sound and style. When Richter recorded Bach’s works, he freed them from a ponderous tradition that had mired the music in romantic sounds and idiom. Richter lightened Bach’s music, and, with an orchestra of outstanding musicians, helped bring it toward the more modern interpretations that listeners have become familiar with today. This is still a bit far from the historically-informed performances that are pretty much the norm, but there is a unity and natural originality that comes through the music in these recordings.
Originally recorded in stereo in 1978 and 1979 and released on two separate LPs, these performances of Bach's Orchestral Suites (also known as the Overtures) with Trevor Pinnock leading his English Consort were as good as it got at the time for period instrument performances. And this 2007 single-disc re-release does not change that assessment. The Consort's strings are dry but warm – check out the Air from the Third Suite – the winds are colorful and quirky – check out the Forlane from the First Suite – the brass is controlled but cutting – check out the Ouverture from the Fourth Suite – and the timpani is vivacious but thankfully not overwhelming – check out the Réjouissance, also from the Fourth Suite. Pinnock's conducting is almost universally light and lively, and when it's not in the Second Suite, it's because the music itself is dark and dreary. Although there are dozens of great performances of the suites to choose from, if you're only going to have one recording on the shelf, it should be Pinnock's.(James Leonard)
This is an enjoyable, somehow spontaneous recording of several of Bach's works for a pair of harpsichords, with the great Japanese Bach conductor Masaaki Suzuki joined by his son Masato. The high spirits of the elder Suzuki here could be chalked up to any combination of several factors. One might be freedom from the rigors of his complete Bach cantata cycle, just recently completed when this album appeared in 2014.
The Ensemble Pygmalion directed by Raphaël Pichon commences its collaboration with Harmonia Mundi with this new recording of J.S. Bach’s lost music to the Köthener Trauermusik (Cöthen funeral music), BWV 244a. Founded in 2006 at the European Bach Festival, Ensemble Pygmalion is a combination of choir and orchestra - all young performers with experience of authentic instruments and period-informed performance. Its repertoire concentrates primarily on Johann Sebastian Bach and Jean-Philippe Rameau.
Lars Ulrik Mortensen is best known as a harpsichordist active largely in Baroque solo and chamber music repertory. But his career is quite multifaceted: he has regularly conducted both instrumental and operatic works and has taught harpsichord and historic performance practices at the Hochschule fur Musik in Munich. He has often appeared in concert as accompanist to singer Emma Kirkby and has regularly partnered violinist John Holloway and cellist Jaap ter Linden.
The work of another relatively new antiquarian group, the Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin, is altogether more interesting. Performing with no set director and alternating concertmasters, the academy applies fuller instrumentation to the suites and takes a compleatist approach to repeats(Harmonia Mundi).