Johann Sebastian Bach was a member of a family that had for generations been occupied in music. His sons were to continue the tradition, providing the foundation of a new style of music that prevailed in the later part of the eighteenth century. Johann Sebastian Bach himself represented the end of an age, the culmination of the Baroque in a magnificent synthesis of Italian melodic invention, French rhythmic dance forms and German contrapuntal mastery.
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.
Before releasing his first disc of Bach’s organ works, Masaaki Suzuki had recorded the composer’s complete sacred cantatas, as well as the large-scale choral works and much of the music for harpsichord. His achievements in these fields obscured the fact that Suzuki originally trained as an organist, and began working as such already at the age of twelve. So when Volume 1 of this series reached reviewers around the world, it was something of a revelation to many: the disc went on to be named Choice of the Month in BBC Music Magazine, Diapason d’Or in Diapason and Recording of the Month in Gramophone, which then went on to include it on its list of the ‘50 Greatest Bach Recordings’.
The recipient of the 2012 City of Leipzig Bach Medal, Masaaki Suzuki has earned an enviable reputation as an interpreter of the music of J. S. Bach as a reviewer in Intl Record Guide has put it: 'With Suzuki you can hear Bach's heart beat'. To a wide audience he is known as the director of Bach Collegium Japan, and the moving force behind the ensemble's acclaimed recordings of Bach's complete sacred cantatas. Perhaps less well known is that he began his career at the age of 12! playing the organ at church services in Kobe, where he was born. Suzuki has remained true to the organ throughout his life, and for BIS he has previously recorded Bach's German Organ Mass, as well as programs of Buxtehude and Sweelinck. He here appears on a disc combining some of Bach's best-loved works for the instrument, including the D minor Toccata and Fugue, the Partitas on O Gott, du frommer Gott, BWV 767, the Canonic Variations, BWV769, and the celebrated Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV548.
For this hybrid SACD of famous organ works by J.S. Bach, Masaaki Suzuki plays the restored Schnitger-Hinz organ in the Martinikerk (Martin's Church), in Groningen, one of the most celebrated instruments in the Netherlands and one which dates back to Bach's time. Its bright, Baroque sonorities and Suzuki's historically informed interpretations give these performances a compelling sense of authenticity and period style. The pieces are among Bach's greatest hits, particularly the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which gives the program a decisive opening. Following that flashy demonstration, Suzuki is relaxed and almost contemplative in the Pastorale in F major, and continues his thoughtful readings in the Partita on "O Gott, du frommer Gott," the Prelude and Fugue in G minor, and the Canonic Variations on "Vom Himmel hoch da komm' ich her." Yet he includes two sparkling virtuoso performances in the Fantasia in G major and the Prelude and Fugue in E minor, which keep the album from being too soft and subdued. BIS' super audio sound is crisp and detailed, which is no mean feat in a church recording.
Thoroughly trained by his father Johann Sebastian, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach became renowned as a virtuoso harpsichordist and organist. His surviving organ music includes the seven choral preludes and ten fugues on this disc, which range from relatively simple settings to elaborate displays of counterpoint. Born in Rio de Janeiro and based in the USA, Julia Brown, who has made several acclaimed recordings of keyboard music by Buxtehude and Scheidemann for Naxos, has been praised as ‘a first-class artist and superb technician … an exceptionally sensitive stylist’.
This 1990 Digital Recording is a must for Bach's CD Collector. Recorded using historic organs on which some were played himself by Bach. Marie-Claire Alain's playing here is more in historic and faithful to performance practice. The tempos and the registrations are well planned and the approach of playing is spontaneous and simple. The spirituality of the performer is so evident here.