Growing up in his native Dublin in the 1850s and ‘60s, Stanford was no stranger to high-quality chamber music, even if the visits to Ireland’s capital by pre-eminent executants of the genre were sporadic. As a teenager he recalled with some affection and excitement the solo recitals of Anton Rubinstein, Sigismond Thalberg and Charles Hallé, and string players such as Camillo Sivori, Ludwig Straus, Henry Vieuxtemps, Alfredo Piatti and of course Joseph Joachim, a friend of his father. Hearing Joachim play Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata and unaccompanied Bach at semi-private concerts left a deep impression on Stanford (himself a budding violinist), as did Joachim’s appearances as the leader of Levey’s (his tutor’s) quartet. As a result of these formative experiences, Stanford became a devotee of chamber music.
Those who remember and enjoyed the Swingle Singers' "do-be-do" take on Bach from years back will enjoy this updated version. Some of the old favorites are here, with a slightly freer approach, along with some new material from both Bach and Mozart. It isn't just scat singing, either. The Singers demonstrate that they can sing the texts of pieces quite well. If you didn't grow up with them, give it a try–it's a great light approach to classical music!
Bach’s Goldberg Variations have played a central role in harpsichordist Pierre Hantai’s musical life since his early youth. At 28 he recorded the work for the Opus 111 label (now available on Naïve), a highly acclaimed release that stands among the work’s choice versions. Over the past 11 years Hantai evidently has rethought and refined his interpretation, as revealed in this 2003 remake. There’s greater rhythmic freedom and variety of articulation, plus a more subjective approach to ornaments and agogics, especially in the repeats (he observes all but those in Variation 15, 25, and the Aria Da Capo; the 1992 recording honors all repeats save for Variation 25). Variations previously characterized through Hantai’s seamless legato technique (Nos. 3, 6, 8, 11, 17, and 18, for example) are further enlivened by detaché finger strokes and more inflected phrasings. The latter infuse Variations 7, 10, and 16 with greater resilience and rhythmic verve than their earlier counterparts.
Youngest son of J.S. Bach, Johann Christian Bach rose to prominence in England during the early Classical period much the same as his father dominated the German Baroque. His writing was influenced by his father, of course, but also by the fashions being explored by Haydn. J.C. Bach also served as a bridge to Mozart, whose work and early writings were also influenced by the junior Bach. A total of 15, three-movement symphonies were published under Opp. 6, 9, and 18.
Given the considerable number of recordings that have tried to place Renaissance compositions within the context for which they were written, it is odd that the same has so rarely been done for Bach. After all, most of Bach's output consists of Gebrauchsmusik, music written for daily use. This release by Scotland's historical-instrument Dunedin Consort and its leader John Butt shows the possibilities of this approach.