The Gemini Series features an impressive roster of singers, conductors, soloists, and ensembles of international renown, all from the incomparable EMI Classics stable. EMI's rich legacy of recording expertise comes to the fore in performances from the 1960s to the 1990s. Gemini titles are predominantly collections of single composers and fantastic value with well over an hour of music on each CD, making them the ideal place to start or develop a collection of classical music. Each 2-CD set contains over two hours of music for a fantastically low price. Attractively designed and packaged in space-saving brilliant boxes, each set includes three-language booklets with detailed notes on the music.
Bach’s keyboard works known as the English Suites offer a series of dance movements which, despite their name, owe more to earlier French and German models. This is the first of two recordings of the complete English Suites arranged for two guitars by the distinguished Montenegrin Guitar Duo. Transcriptions of Bach for solo guitar have been popular since the nineteenth century and the emergence of the guitar duo extends still further the potential for exciting and revelatory performances.
Maria João Pires “shapes and colours every phrase, and with immaculate taste, and she makes sure the phrases end as eloquently as they begin,” wrote Gramophone in 1974. “She conveys not just the details but the relevance of every note to the whole … Best of all, she communicates everything she has discovered about the music, and it is worth having.” This Portuguese pupil of Wilhelm Kempff, Pires was one of the artists who defined the Erato label in the 1970s and 1980s. This 5-CD box gathers together the recordings she made over the period from 1976 to 1985 and it reflects the consistent focus of her repertoire, with its special emphasis on Austro-German composers of the Classical and early-Romantic periods. Embracing solo works, piano duets and concertos, it contains works by Mozart, Schumann, Beethoven, but also by Bach and Chopin.
Another superlative Alpha production! Really! From the beautiful multiple Gainsborough reproductions through the astute notes and the vivid sound to the stunning performances, this really is another superlative Alpha product. Violinist Pablo Valetti and harpsichordist Céline Frisch are fluent and soulful players with an empathetic sense of ensemble. In these Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord, Valetti and Frisch's warm tone, supple tempos, and expressive lines make Bach's music sound as virtuosic as ever, but more lyrical than usual. Alpha's recording is close and detailed and real, capturing the sound of the air in the room. The notes are lively and learned and entertaining. The notes on the Gainsborough on the cover are even better and even the tiny little reproductions somehow contrive to catch the effervescent beauty of his light and shape and color and texture. While the classic recordings of the Sonatas remain inviolate, Valetti and Frisch should be heard by anyone who loves recorded art.
These CDs contain all Bach’s extant concertos that feature a solo keyboard. Most were written in the 1730s and are thought to be arrangements of earlier concertos, many of which are now lost (though two will be recognized as Bach’s E major and A minor violin concertos and the sixth is an arrangement of the fourth Brandenburg). The fifth Brandenburg Concerto, with harpsichord, flute and violin soloists, dates from 1721 and is generally regarded as the first concerto for a solo keyboard instrument ever written. Bach made the keyboard part particularly brilliant and included a huge cadenza; he certainly knew how to establish a genre with a bang!
The arrangement of Bach's Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, for string trio by Russian violinist and composer Dmitry Sitkovetsky has taken on a life of its town, with multiple performances and even a sort of electronic remix by Karlheinz Essl. The appeal for string chamber groups longing to share in Bach's riches is obvious, and for audiences it appears to be another case of Bach's music standing up to whatever you do to it. Like most other annotators, Hyperion's Nigel Simeone tries to claim that the arrangement is on a par with the numerous transcriptions Bach made of his own works. It is no such thing; the string chamber texture by its nature adds expressive devices that were not of Bach's world, and he would have found Sitkovetsky's version bizarre.
In the Baroque period, there really was no such thing as an "orchestra" as we understand the term today. There were large collections of singers and players brought together for special occasions, but aside from those, an "orchestral" work was anything that required more than five or six players. Bach's harpsichord concertos, for example, can be performed by a couple of dozen string players plus the soloist, or with an accompaniment of one person per part, which is more or less what we get here. These small forces permit an unprecedented transparency of sound and sharpness of attack, even if some weight and body of tone necessarily get sacrificed. It's a perfectly legitimate way to play the music, however, and you won't find it better done than here.