The sound world of Bach’s last great Mass has changed radically in recent decades; one-to-a-part performance practice is, as conductor Lars Ulrik Mortensen puts it, “changing our entire notion of Bach’s acoustic universe”. This bold claim is amply proven in an account of dazzling transparency, dance-like rhythms and utter clarity. Sometimes the balance seems not quite right, for example when organ continuo dominates, but some superb ensemble numbers pit voices against virtuosic instruments so each seems to outdo the other in joyous exuberance. The five soloists complement each other well, and the addition of just five extra singers is all that is needed to explode Bach’s universal vision into life.
Dietrich Buxtehude is probably most familiar to modern classical music audiences as the man who inspired the young Johann Sebastian Bach to make a lengthy pilgrimage to Lubeck, Buxtehude's place of employment and residence for most of his life, just to hear Buxtehude play the organ. But Buxtehude was a major figure among German Baroque composers in his own right.
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.
Partenope wasn't a success upon its premiere in 1730. It doesn't have the drama of Giulio Cesare or Serse or the magic of Alcina or Orlando. But this sophisticated comedy has recently come into its own. Sigiswald Kuijken and La Petite Bande kicked off the revival with a path-breaking audio recording in 1979. Since 1998 it has been a staple of the repertory at the New York City Opera. This wonderful DVD from Copenhagen's Royal Theater will solidify Partenope's modern reputation…
"His interpretation of appoggiaturas in the Aria is likely to raise a few eyebrows, and not everyone will like the adoption of a chirpy and most unmajestic staccato in the French overture. But I do hope he does not lose the pertness he shows in Var. 27 and the crisp humour of his Var. 22; and the extra embellishments he allows himself on repeats are remembering Koopman's distractingly fussy ornaments on Erato/RCA) neat and natural-sounding." Grammophone, October 1989
Originally recorded in stereo in 1978 and 1979 and released on two separate LPs, these performances of Bach's Orchestral Suites (also known as the Overtures) with Trevor Pinnock leading his English Consort were as good as it got at the time for period instrument performances. And this 2007 single-disc re-release does not change that assessment. The Consort's strings are dry but warm – check out the Air from the Third Suite – the winds are colorful and quirky – check out the Forlane from the First Suite – the brass is controlled but cutting – check out the Ouverture from the Fourth Suite – and the timpani is vivacious but thankfully not overwhelming – check out the Réjouissance, also from the Fourth Suite. Pinnock's conducting is almost universally light and lively, and when it's not in the Second Suite, it's because the music itself is dark and dreary. Although there are dozens of great performances of the suites to choose from, if you're only going to have one recording on the shelf, it should be Pinnock's.(James Leonard)
This is an enjoyable, somehow spontaneous recording of several of Bach's works for a pair of harpsichords, with the great Japanese Bach conductor Masaaki Suzuki joined by his son Masato. The high spirits of the elder Suzuki here could be chalked up to any combination of several factors. One might be freedom from the rigors of his complete Bach cantata cycle, just recently completed when this album appeared in 2014.
Listening to this irresistibly joyful and magnificently musical set of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites, one is immediately struck by two thoughts. First, Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan have been wasting their time concentrating on Bach's dour cantatas, and second, Bach himself was wasting his time writing his melancholy church music when he could have been composing infinitely more cheerful secular music. While Suzuki and his crew have turned in superlatively performed, if spectacularly severe recording of the cantatas, they sound just as virtuosic and vastly more comfortable here.
"The trees are coming into leaf/Like something almost being said." Taking a cue from these lines of Philip Larkin, pianist Simone Dinnerstein casts her album of the music of J.S. Bach and Franz Schubert in poetic terms. Her understanding of the composers is summed up in her own words: "The music of Bach and Schubert share a distinctive quality, as if wordless voices were singing textless melodies." Of course, Bach and Schubert were masters of setting texts to profoundly expressive music, so it is fruitful to look for the lyrical impulse in their keyboard works and appropriate to find songful interpretations. Yet Dinnerstein doesn't merely serve up rhapsodic renditions or treat the music as some kind of tuneful vehicle for idiosyncratic or personal reveries. Her playing is quite in character for both composers, and her treatment of the material is far from self-indulgent. Indeed, counterpoint and harmony are carefully balanced against the upper lines, and Dinnerstein is completely in control of the inner parts in Bach's partitas and the rhythmic subtleties of Schubert impromptus. Dinnerstein's playing is well-rounded and skillful, and the care she lavishes on the smallest details of execution may well remind listeners of Glenn Gould (without his attendant eccentricities) or Angela Hewitt.