Brilliant composer and organist Johann Sebastian Bach completes the long journey from his home in Leipzig to Potsdam.
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.
It is only a short while since I reviewed a suite of dances from Rameau's opera, Nais. Now, hard on the heels of that disc (also conducted by McGegan, Harmonia Mundi, 7/95) comes a reissue of the entire work, albeit with judicious cuts. Nais was commissioned to celebrate the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, and first performed the following year. Thus it was a vocal counterpart to Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks, both pieces marking the conclusion of the War of the Austrian Succession. The present recording was made in 1980 following performances at London's Old Vic Theatre and at Versailles under the auspices of Lina Lalandi's enterprising English Bach Festival.
This SACD from PentaTone was recorded originally in 1970, not long after he’d made his official debut as an organist. (His organ recitals are notable for being played from memory.) The performances were taken down in the then-new quadraphonic system & released on Philips LPs. But of course quadraphonic LPs were a less than ideal carrier for the 4ch sound on the tapes. Fortunately PentaTone, a company founded by ex-Philips personnel, has been reissuing quad recordings on SACDs remastered from those tapes & they sound spectacularly lifelike. They are, of course, in 4ch sound, not the 6ch that the modern SACD system is capable of.
Christopher Wrench commands a broad solo repertoire including the complete organ works of Bach, whilst also working as a liturgical musician, pedagogue & chamber player. He teaches organ at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University & directs the music programme at St Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point in Brisbane. In 2008 he was awarded the Lord Mayor’s Australia Day Cultural Award for his outstanding contribution to the musical life of Brisbane.