Naturally, Brilliant Classics could not afford to get the best baroque performers - this is a super budget set - but one thing that the listener discovers in this set is that there are many fine, even excellent "second tier" performers of Bach's music. Many of the instrumental ensembles whose recordings are in this set are excellent. The Consort of London, for example, is a pleasant surprise. They perform the Brandenburg Concertos and the Orchestral Suites…
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.
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!
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.
"…The playing of the Retrospect Ensemble is spot-on from beginning to end. Tempos are brisk but not pressed to the point that compromises articulation or unanimity of bowing and fingering, and the readings are buoyant, energetic, and fresh-sounding. Complemented by Linn's wonderfully clear and transparent multichannel recording, Bach's music shines." ~Fanfare
…All in all, a real treat, one that has been thoughtfully programmed and thoughtfully performed. As Dinnerstein tends to prefer a more romantic approach toward Bach, one should be ready for that aspect upon listening. But if one listens with open ears, one will be greatly rewarded. The sound of the recording is clear and vibrant, with almost no reverberation. The sound is perfectly suited to home listening, never too dry. Hats off to the performers and the production team on a successful release.
This recording presents works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Bernhard Bach and Georg Friedrich Handel, performed for the most part at a concert in "Villa Hügel" on March 25, 1994.
The Collegium Aureum, a loose association of soloists and conservatory teachers, was founded in 1962 by the Freiburg (Germany) based record company Harmonia Mundi. From the very beginning the ensemble has dedicated itself to the meritorious task of reviving historical performance practices in order to convey an impression of the music’s authentic sound. This “resurrected court orchestra” plays works of the Baroque, the Classical, as well as the Romantic periods on historical instruments.
"Yo-Yo Ma Plays Bach" is one of several titles in Sony's new "Music For You" Series, easily identified by their artsy, photographic covers. The material on this CD has been available previously on CBS Masterworks. True, Ma does play music by Bach, but it is sonatas (originally intended for viola da gamba and not cello) by Bach, and the Sinfonia Concertante by Bach's youngest son, Johann Christian Bach. Not that Sony is lying and not that most people will care or feel cheated, but since this title is obviously aimed at classical novices, I just thought I'd set the record straight. In a similar vein, hopefully those that discover both Bach and Yo-Yo Ma via this disc will like what they hear, and go on to get one of Ma's two recordings of the Bach "Cello Suites" – the real yardstick for composer and performer alike. ~Amazon