The Reformations fundamental alterations to traditional forms of church service, had, by Bach's time, resulted in German churches Latin yielding to the country's own language. To a limited extent, however, the Latin mass text did remain in use in the Protestant church in particular the Kyrie and Gloria sections. Termed Missa to differentiate them from complete settings, these pieces are often referred to now as 'Lutheran Masses'. Bach's famous Mass in B minor began its existence as a work of this type, and four other examples from Bach's pen have survived. Newly performed and recorded by Bach Collegium Japan under the direction of Masaaki Suzuki, the Missae BWV 235 and 236 are here combined with four separate settings of the Sanctus. Two of these are original works, whereas BWV 241, and possibly also 240, is an arrangement of another composers setting. The 'KyrieChriste' BWV Anh 26 is an example of how Bach used music by other composers, in this case by his Neapolitan contemporary Francesco Durante.
For this hybrid SACD of famous organ works by J.S. Bach, Masaaki Suzuki plays the restored Schnitger-Hinz organ in the Martinikerk (Martin's Church), in Groningen, one of the most celebrated instruments in the Netherlands and one which dates back to Bach's time. Its bright, Baroque sonorities and Suzuki's historically informed interpretations give these performances a compelling sense of authenticity and period style. The pieces are among Bach's greatest hits, particularly the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which gives the program a decisive opening. Following that flashy demonstration, Suzuki is relaxed and almost contemplative in the Pastorale in F major, and continues his thoughtful readings in the Partita on "O Gott, du frommer Gott," the Prelude and Fugue in G minor, and the Canonic Variations on "Vom Himmel hoch da komm' ich her." Yet he includes two sparkling virtuoso performances in the Fantasia in G major and the Prelude and Fugue in E minor, which keep the album from being too soft and subdued. BIS' super audio sound is crisp and detailed, which is no mean feat in a church recording.
In the early 1730s Bach revised his E flat major Magnificat of 1723, transposing it to D major and omitting the interpolations peculiar to Christmas performances in Leipzig. (Recent research suggests such richly scored Latin Magnificats could be performed in Lutheran churches at some 15 annual festivals, not just the three – Xmas, Easter, Ascension – previously supposed.)
In June 1995, a virtually unknown group of Japanese musicians embarked on the monumental task of recording the complete sacred cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach. Almost eighteen years later, on 23rd February 2013, the Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzuki – by then household names in the international music world – reached their goal, as they finished recording the 55th disc in a series which in the meantime had met with overwhelming acclaim worldwide. Made in conjunction with the final cantata recording, this film commemorates the occasion. Besides filmed performances of the three last cantatas – Gloria in excelsis Deo, BWV191, Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele, BWV69 and Freue dich, erlöste Schar, BWV30 – the film includes interviews with Masaaki Suzuki and key members of Bach Collegium Japan as well as behind-the-scenes footage.
Listeners familiar with any of Masaaki Suzuki's many Bach recordings for BIS are likely to know what to expect from his recording of the Well-Tempered Klavier Book II: immaculate playing, impeccable taste, and immediate sound. Perhaps best-known internationally for his series of recordings of Bach's cantatas and other sacred works, Suzuki started his career as a superlative keyboard player, and as his performance here on the harpsichord demonstrates, he has kept his skills well-honed.
While one might reasonably prefer this, that or the other recording of Bach's "Goldberg" Variations, one should still take the time to listen to this 1997 recording of the work played on the harpsichord by Masaaki Suzuki on BIS. For one thing, Suzuki is the conductor of BIS' series of Bach Cantata recordings and it is interesting to hear what he can do on his own without other musicians as intermediaries.
Following his magnificent recording of J.S. Bach's Inventions and Sinfonias for BIS last year, the Japanese harpsichordist/organist/conductor Masaaki Suzuki here offers more revelatory performances of some of Bach's equally well known (as well as some lesser known) masterpieces. With this collection, simply titled Fantasias & Fugues, Suzuki provides a grand overview of Bach's lifelong sporadic exploration of the Fantasia genre.
Listeners familiar with other recordings in Masaaki Suzuki's ongoing traversal of Bach's solo keyboard works may find his performances of the Partitas somewhat of an anomaly. For instance, the sharply delineated juxtapositions of tempos that made his Fantasias and Fugues program so thrilling (type Q3840 in Search Reviews) are nowhere to be heard here. The interpretive agenda this time is much subtler and decidedly more introverted.