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.
Bach is often credited with having invented the keyboard concerto, despite the fact that all of his works in the mode were arrangements of existing concertos for other instruments. Furthermore, whatever influence they may have had was indirect. It’s unlikely that either Haydn or Mozart had heard any of this music or even knew of its existence. But Haydn may have encountered the keyboard concertos of Carl Philippe Emanuel, and Mozart knew Johann Christian’s works in the genre. Nevertheless the elder Bach’s concertos, whether played on a harpsichord, or on a piano, retain a revered place in the keyboard literature. Many listeners will remember the veteran Baroque specialist, Bob van Asperen, from his collaboration with Gustav Leonhardt in the Teldec Bach cantata series. Here he plays the solo concertos with expected grace and fluidity, accompanied by Melante Amsterdam, which is basically an expanded period-instruments string quartet. The performances have a chamber-like intimacy, which is especially attractive, for example, in the famous Largo of the F-Minor concerto (BWV 1056). The recording, dating back to 1993, sounds brand new.(George Chien)
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…
For those that prefer to hear these works on piano rather than harpsichord, you can hardly find more enjoyable, illuminating, and elegant performances than these. Andras Schiff has surely become one of the most prominent proponents of J.S. Bach on the piano and its hard to believe these particular discs were ever allowed to slip from commercial availability. Their re-issue here is reason to rejoice. It is with good reason that another chapter in the career of Andras Schiff has started recently with his new series of Beethoven Sonatas on ECM, and of course more Bach. He is a true master, and the Bach Concerto recordings with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, led by Schiff himself, exemplify this and count as essential listening.
This is a really great five-CD set. You get all of Bach's concertos except the Brandenburgs - which is a shame because Pinnock's Brandenburgs are terrific. Nonetheless, this remains an absolutely cracking collection of some of Bach's most enjoyable music in excellent performances. In the Harpsichord Concertos Pinnock is himself the soloist and shows why he is such a very well-liked and highly regarded musician. The music springs to life under his fingers (and under his direction) and many of these performances set new and enduring standards when first released in the early 1980s. They have informed much subsequent Bach playing and have worn extremely well themselves, sounding as fresh and involving as they did nearly 30 years ago. He is joined by other fine harpsichordists in the concerti for two, three and four harpsichords, (Kenneth Gilbert, Nicholas Kraemer and Lars Ulrich Mortensen) and the Concerto for Four Harpsichords in particular is an absolute joy.
The Complete works of J.S. Bach on 160 CDs at a super bargain price. The CDs are packaged in paper sleeves in a glossy cardboard box, and the notes and text are included as PDF files on an additional CD Rom disc. Almost entirely original instrument performances, all 60 hours of the Sacred Cantatas are new recordings for this edition (a story in itself), the first complete set of digital recordings in fact.
In the '80s there were those listeners who thought that Heinrich Schiff might redeem cello performance practice from fatal beauty and lethal elegance. Aside from the burly and brawny Rostropovich, more and more cellists were advocating a performance style whose ideals were perfect intonation and graceful phrasing. In some repertoire, say, Fauré, these are perfectly legitimate goals. In other repertoire, Beethoven and Brahms, say, it is a terrible mistake. In Bach's Cello Suites, as the fay and fragile Yo-Yo Ma recordings make clear, it was a terminal mistake. Not so in Schiff's magnificently muscular 1984 recordings of the suites: Schiff's rhythms, his tempos, his tone, his intonation, and especially his interpretations were anything but fay or fragile. In Schiff's performance, Bach's Cello Suites are not the neurasthenic music of a composer supine with dread and despair in the dark midnight of the soul, but the forceful music of a mature composer in full control of himself and his music.