From the irresitably forceful opening bars of the English Suite's prelude to the throbbing repeated octaves of the D minor concerto, Richter shows why many of Bach's works are ideally suited to the piano. The Bach concerto is often regarded as a student piece, or relegated to refined performances on the harpsichord. Not here – the bookend movements are as maniacal, pulsing and driving as the best of John Coltrane or Prokofiev. The CD is worth it just for those movements, but Richter's treatment of the English Suite is equally enlightening, especially the Prelude and Gavotte.
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…
The late Nathan Milstein’s 1975 stereo remake (DG mid-price) was his own preferred version of these pillars of the violin repertoire with which he had been so associated since his youth in Odessa. But his (broadly faster) mid-Fifties New York account, now remastered and restored by EMI, was a famous yardstick of its time – a grandly phrased, aristocratically structured, Romantically resonant statement to treasure beside Menuhin and Heifetz. These are epic virtuoso performances justifying Milstein’s view that with this music the performer could ‘bask in the most glamorous light’. Stylistically, purists will object to their expressive liberty and gesture. But few will be able to resist their artistry or intensity of delivery.
Julian Bream is, without a doubt, one of the premiere classical guitarists of the modern recording era. Comparisons between great guitarists is often unfair and misleading as they each have their own styles - and each musician and his/her style tends to be particularly well suited to certain types of music. For example, Andres Segovia's style, cultivated by self-teaching throughout his now ended life, concentrated on flowing legatto smoothness and flowing melodies. Bream's, on the other hand, while equally masterful, is better characterized as emphasizing the precision and crispness of each and every individual note. What better composer to focus on to show this particular proclivity that J. S. Bach, whose work, having been written largely for the keyboards (harpsichord) but also for the lute and triple harp, tends to emphasize the kinds of music Bream excels at. Stacatto phrasings, each written to be played with crystalline exactness, are the types of pieces wherein Bream's magnificence is conspicuous and best showcased. Thus, the special relevance of this particular compilation of some of his best Bach work on this CD.
The title alone is enough to make the heart beat a little faster. It is not coincidental that many music lovers have just this work as a centre in their private musical universe, a piece they return to again and again, always to find something new. A set of variations which stretches the limits; old man Bach with the powers to make the variation-form a display of pure music. This release concludes Ketil Haugsand"s recordings of all Bach"s "Clavierübung" on harpsichord for Simax Classics. The two earlier releases became reference recordings over-night, and Goldberg really is the jewel of the crown. As always Haugsand"s interpretation is no scratching the surface, but taking you through to the deeper layers of this music in breathing and singing phrases, along the map drawn up by Bach.
Youthful Viennese pianist Till Fellner has performed J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier to critical acclaim across Europe, and has made it the backbone of his recital repertoire. For this recording of Book I, Fellner performs the 24 preludes and fugues with a rich and full sound, yet with the refinement and fastidious control required in these comprehensive studies of Baroque keyboard technique. Articulation and balanced phrasing are of paramount importance, and Fellner's energies are directed to the clean execution of lines and the careful shading of contrapuntal voicings. What emotion he communicates is subtle and somewhat constrained to the contrasting characters of each pairing – the preludes and fugues often play off each other – yet his interpretations are quite colorful and varied over the course of the set. Neither cerebral nor effusive, Fellner renders the music in an appealing middle area between schools of interpretation, and achieves imaginative results that should please both traditionalists and fans of period practice.
These three sonatas - composed originally for the viola da gamba and harpsichord - are very musically-appealing compositions. And unlike previous Baroque cahmber-music tradition, the harpsichord is not relegated to mere continuo but projected into the spotlight as co-soloist - perhaps to showcase some of Bach's keyboard virtuosity. There are several fine period recordings of these works on viola da gamba and harpsichord (Savall, Peri, Crum, Wispelwey) or modern cello with harpsichord (Ma, Tortelier). But if your taste favors all modern instuments (cello, piano), then this circa-80's CD by the legendary Martha Argerich and Misha Maisky is the ticket.
Gidon Kremer has again recorded the Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin of Bach and while his facility and technical grace are intact, in this recording he appears to have been deeply influenced by his time with the moderns (Adams, Pärt, Schnittke, Piazzola, Glass, et al). For this listener it seems that studying and performing these contemporary composers' manipulation of sound and instrumental scope has enriched Kremer's thought about the perfection of Bach. Not everyone will agree with Kremer's approach to these works on this new recording, but for those who know Bach's solo violin pieces there are pleasures in store. Remaining technically suave and with a luxuriant tone, Kremer seems to be communicating with the psychological Bach, offering different tempi and more soulful approaches than those of his colleagues. The results are mesmerizing. Highly recommended.
Three double concertos for harpsichord by Bach survive, all dating from around 1736, and all arrangements of earlier compositions. BWV 1060 is thought to have originated as a now lost double concerto for oboe and violin, while BWV 1062 is a reworking of the well-loved concerto for two violins. Unlike these two works, BWV 1061 was composed for two harpsichords from the outset, but probably started out as a concerto without orchestral accompaniment – this will have been added later. Performing these works, with a quintet of string players from the Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki is joined by his son Masato. For the present disc Masato Suzuki has also taken a page from Bach’s own book, in arranging the composer’s Orchestral Suite No.1 for two unaccompanied harpsichords.