As soloist, Perahia is his usual stylish, discreet and pianistically refined self. If Ibragimova is occasionally caught between two stools in whether (or not) to follow her instincts, the best performances are brazenly alive, responsive and unselfconscious, underpinned by the soft-grained luxuriance of the lute continuo (note the assuaging sweet-and-sour hues of the slow movements of both the A minor and E major concertos, BWV1041 & 42) and a highly modulated use of dynamics. Anderszewski and Bach have long been congenial bedfellows and the Pole’s playing here is compelling on many different levels. He points out that this is “a personal feeling, not a theory”, but it has to be said that once you know that he is thinking of the Agony in the Garden during the darkly questioning Second Suite (the five stark chords towards the end of the Prélude representing the wounds of Christ), the Crucifixion in the wearily troubled Fifth or the Resurrection in the joyous Sixth, it adds immense power and interest to his performances. Soloist-conducted piano concertos can sometimes mean compromise, even chaos…but not in this case. 33. And Pobłocka’s soaring alla breve reading of the B minor Prelude differs from the measured tread of, say Daniel Barenboim or Edward Aldwell. Indeed, it is the directness of his interpretations that is so telling; there is almost none of that slightly coy rubato that some other flautists use to disguise the need to breathe. And while Glenn Gould achieves formidable levels of concentration (especially in the second of his two commercial recordings for Sony), his gargantuan personality – utterly absorbing though it is – does occasionally intrude. But such fine nuances only emerge in the dutiful process of comparison, rather than in the wholly absorbing experience of Levit traversing another musical peak. Harnoncourt’s recording, taken from live performances in the Musikverein last Christmas, succeeds in this regard with uncanny freshness and generosity. There is of course nothing innately ‘English’ about them and the origin of their title is shrouded in mystery, though Bach’s earliest biographer Johann Nikolaus Forkel speculated that it reflected the nationality of the suites’ (unknown) dedicatee. This recording is not merely music therapy, however, but a genuine musical experience. Bach, Johann Sebastian : Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (English, german and french text) (Choral of the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147.) If there was anything Gardiner learnt from the monumental traversal of the cantatas during that great millennium year, it was to take longer-breathed interpretative positions with Bach and to know when to let the singers, especially, and the music do the work. Wolffrefers to Bach’scollection of 370 four-part chorales that charted the course for tonal harmony. Many excellent recordings of this monumental work cater for different tastes and priorities. He has an excellent sense of the longer line and the harmonic pull beneath Bach’s wonderfully melodic writing. Johann Sebastian Bach: Chorales: Wenn ich in Angst und Noth, BWV 427 . Only Samuil Feinberg’s arrangement on the piano has lifted this piece completely out of its safe organ istic sphere – but I think it now has a partner in grandeur, flair and emotional risk. I’ve rarely heard a comparably upbeat and joyous A flat Prelude, or an A flat Fugue so organically tapered. If the first movement of the Harpsichord Concerto in D minor (Bach’s arrangement of Marcello’s D minor Oboe Concerto) is almost too punchy in its ebullience, the famous Adagio is suitably haloed and the finale fizzes. Along the way, in a deftly balanced presentation of strikingly contrasting essays, Suzuki offers beautifully turned, reflective and buoyant readings of sui generis ‘concert’ works. As to other pianists, I would cite Richard Goode, on a par with Murray Perahia; maybe András Schiff as well. Note, too, Pobłocka’s swaggering D major Fugue and how each entrance of the D minor Fugue’s exposition is consistently phrased, down to the slight tapering of the trill. In all likelihood, Bach composed 20 or more violin concertos, mainly at Weimar and Cöthen, and yet tantalisingly we are left with only two works for a single soloist – more often than not joined at the hip with the celebrated ‘Double’. This is not to imply dryness or inflexibility on Aimard’s part. Fermer les suggestions Recherche Recherche. His account of Kempff’s transcription of the chorale prelude Nun freut euch is less anchored by the chorale tune itself and more flighty in effect than Kempff’s own performances (Eloquence). Only Pinnock himself remains from that first line-up, and while the players then were a high-class team (Simon Standage, Lisa Beznosiuk and Michael Laird among them), the players of the European Brandenburg Ensemble include some of the finest of today’s Baroque chamber players, and there is a relaxed expertise about their performances which seems to allow them to communicate directly and without technical or ideological hindrance. Nicholas Anderson (April 1994). Collections of Chorale-Settings by J. S. Bach; Manuscript collections 149 Chorales (Dittel, 1734-35) 3 Choräle zu Trauungen (1734-38) 135 Chorales (Fasch, 1762) 383 Chorales (1770-89) Published collections 371 Vierstimmige Choralgesänge (1784-87) 319 Mehrstimmige Choralgesänge und geistliche Arien (1850-65) Vierstimmige Kirchengesänge (1893)
The experienced Evangelist of James Gilchrist and Christus of Stephan Loges are not to be faulted, and none of the nine young aria soloists is a weak link, to the extent that I’m loath to single out any one of them at the expense of another; suffice to say that each one lives up to their moment in the drama. While Bach may have conceived his Inventions and Sinfonias as teaching pieces, Till Fellner’s intelligent and characterful pianism consistently embraces the music behind the method book. Add a recorded sound which perfectly combines bloom‚ clarity and internal balance‚ and you have a CD to treasure. Bach, Johann Sebastian. None of those principles would be quite so valuable if the music-making wasn’t charismatic and refreshing. And, given that this music was never intended for an audience, it’s hardly surprising that there’s a sense of intimacy about even the most extended and grandiose of the pieces. If the chorale is in a cantata, it is usually (but not always) … Bach didn’t leave many solo concertos, but this one is a gem, easily up there with the best Bach works of all time. Slow movements are far from inexpressive, but again refreshingly direct: he never wallows (a good example is the introductory movement of the E major Sonata). Phew, no he hasn’t.” It’s unusually large-scale and, among the best Bach works, demonstrates that no one expresses anguish more deliciously than Bach. Even if you already have a version of Bach’s flute works on CD, I can strongly recommend this version, which makes an equally good first-time buy. Elle ne contient que les chorals harmonisés à quatre voix. While he has only recorded the work once before, in 1985, performances of the work have peppered his career in all four corners of the globe. For all the pages of sprung bravura and purpose, especially in Lobet den Herrn and Singet dem Herrn, there are as many periods of elongated and poignant restraint. These are different challenges to the Passions in that Bach’s careful assembling of material for six “parts” or cantatas provides no obviously sustained “action” but, rather, tableaux from the majesty of Christ’s birth and the annunciation of the shepherds to the coming of the Three Wise Men as Epiphany approaches. Gardiner would disagree. Superb solo playing, too, flautist Jaime Martin producing a memorably plangent tone. Curiously, perhaps, it is the baroque cellist, Anner Bylsma on RCA who often provides close parallels with Fournier. Apart from a couple of underwhelming movements (‘Können Tränen’ is not vocally settled), the vast majority of arias represent the highest quality of Bach-singing. The two make a fine match. Each contains music of great humanity and beauty‚ and each‚ too‚ contains an aria of aching breadth and nobility – the justly celebrated ‘Schlummert ein’ in the case of Ich habe genug‚ and in Mein Herze the humble but assured supplication of ‘Tief gebückt’. Anderszewski’s CDs are all too infrequent, so let’s cherish this one. This disc is a natural for my Critic's Choice of the year. Immediately after the oratorio has ended (and let’s not pretend that the usual ending, a simple chorale to follow the glowing choral farewell that is ‘Ruht wohl’, does not sometimes sit strangely) comes Ecce quomodo moritur, a gentle funeral motet by the Renaissance composer Jacobus Handl Gallus (sung rather well by the University Choir again under James Grossmith). A chorale prelude includes the melody of the chorale, with added counterpoint. It is closely recorded in a church acoustic to give a brilliant tone with added depth. Albert Schweitzer denounced the seven keyboard concertos as arrangements ‘often made with quite incredible haste and carelessness’. Lindsay Kemp (November 2001), Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Harpsichord or piano? Alongside the top-class and pliable choral singing of Polyphony comes the roll call of exceptional soloists – Nicholas Mulroy among them. Tracks 6 and 7 (the E major’s finale and the A major’s opening Allegro) provide cheering examples of Perahia’s buoyant way with Bach’s faster music. Musically it is very fine. Because, as with Shibe, and to paraphrase Schweitzer, their Bach so clearly sounds like it must be a summation of everything that has gone before. But like the rarest of that breed – a Perahia, say – his playing already has a far-seeing quality that raises him to the status of the thinking virtuoso. At every turn you get the sense of Bach flexing his compositional muscles in these early keyboard suites. We’re always aware of the re entry of a fugue subject, for instance, as it peeks through the texture in different registers or reappears stood on its head, yet it’s never exaggerated as is sometimes the tendency with less imaginative pianists. DG’s engineers have done this remarkable musician proud. He brings out the left hand’s largely stepwise motion to a nicety – sometimes reassuring, sometimes questioning. Jonathan Freeman-Attwood (May 2013), Sols; Concentus Musicus Wien & Arnold Schoenberg Choir / Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Richter’s captivating direction and intensity, complete with an almost hypnotic abandon, is a touch more measured in Suzuki’s hands but no less effectively communicated. The tantalising prospect of salvation is only truly satisfied at the final cadence of a luminously directed chorale. He invests the Goldbergs with the sort of humbling gravitas that Schnabel brings to, say, Schubert’s B flat Sonata. Not only do the individual movements feel spot-on in articulation and affekt but the free-flowing pacing from one section to the next makes it easy for the listener to be pulled along. In contrast, the lower strings convey sublime melancholy in the Adagio ma non tanto of Concerto No 6. Some take the buoyant Gigue of the Fifth Suite at a more headlong pace, yet Perahia’s feels just so: the rhythms are bright and springy, full of energy without freneticism, and joy is palpable in every note. As well as a slim booklet of essays and a complete listing by both CD contents and BWV number, there’s a CDR that contains Gardiner’s excellent notes as well as the texts and translations of all the cantatas. The flute is placed backward in BWV1044 but otherwise recorded balance and sound ensure unimpeded concentration on the performances. But the exuberance is all BSB’s own. Maybe the finale of Sonata No 2 seems rather frantic and the wonderful Adagio ma non tanto of No 3 a touch lumpy, but there really is not much else to criticise. which takes the edge off each note’s attack – makes it come across as wonderfully natural and unaffected. To take just one telling example, go to 3'42" into the first movement of the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, where Perahia cues a breathtaking diminuendo then boldly builds towards the recapitulated opening theme. Casals had hesitated for 35 years before committing to disc these works – long regarded as unplayable, and never performed in their entirety – which he had discovered at the age of 13 and worked on for 12 years before playing them to an astonished public. One can take issue with occasional tenutos that verge on mannerism (Pobłocka’s phrasing of the E flat Prelude’s introduction), or how she glibly trots out the F major Prelude. Perahia’s pacing is unerring throughout, and even if you tend to favour this movement slower, that one faster, the sense of narrative that he brings to these suites as a whole is utterly persuasive. Of all the current doyens of modern Bach performance, Masaaki Suzuki knows no limits to his explorations. Somewhat perversely, I’m reminded of that formidable doyenne of the harpsichord Wanda Landowska saying to cellist Pablo Casals: ‘You play Bach your way and I’ll play Bach his way.’ In reality, like Shibe, they both played Bach both ways. But if you haven’t come across him before I can report that he’s of Russian-German descent (shades of Sviatoslav Richter) and is 27 this year. Beside the more glamorous projects that have captured the attention in the sphere of period performance, the work of Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt and their colleagues in Amsterdam and Vienna has progressed steadily and with consummate musicianship. The Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes are a set he prepared in Leipzig during his last decade, from earlier works … Hantai makes each and every one of the canons a piece of entertainment while in no sense glossing over Bach's consummate formal mastery. At the double bar, before the section repeat and before embarking on the second section, we get the slightest of hesitations, Perahia pausing just long enough to let the music breathe. The Andante from the Italian Concerto, a tirelessly ornamented aria, is given with an enviable poise and lucidity while in the Gigue from the First Partita his playing is, again, the opposite of a more familiar cold-hearted virtuosity, making you regret that there are only excerpts from this exquisite masterpiece. But he is very much his own man, mixing original Bach with transcriptions that range from Stradal, Busoni and Rachmaninov via Kempff to the present day, with Ólafsson’s own rethinking of the luscious aria from the solo alto Cantata No 54, ‘Widerstehe doch der Sünde’, in which he channels the great transcribers of old, using left-hand octaves to give it a grounded feeling, and choosing a measured tempo more akin to Alfred Deller than Andreas Scholl. Finally, let me praise his cantabile playing (a singing style), which Bach extolled to his students as a constant aim. Included here are Gramophone Award-winning albums, Recordings of the Month and Editor's Choice discs from the likes of Glenn Gould, Gustav Leonhardt, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Angela Hewitt, Igor Levit, and many more. But then, this is also the most wonderful cello-playing, surely among the most consistently beautiful to have been heard in this demanding music, as well as the most musically alert and vivid. Indeed, his ‘Ach mein Sinn’ conveys as rarely before the blend of inner mournfulness and savage panic which Bach inspires with this terse chaconne-inspired movement. Any lover of harmony and/or music theory will treasure this collection of the Bach chorales. Everything here is energy, though the exuberance is of the grounded kind that never gets out of hand. Jonathan Freeman-Attwood (December 2015). 2 and 3 – almost to abstraction. The recorded sound is full and forward. There is no more compelling example than the soft, controlled climate of the final contemplative strains of Fürchte dich nicht, where we have an extraordinary representation of the precious mystery of belonging to Christ. If that performance now seems uncontained in a bristling vigour of varying durability, the intervening 30 years have transformed Gardiner’s B minor with his consistently impressive Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists from something less culturally reactive and adrenalin-driven towards a more contained, pictorial and inhabited ideal, though no less energised. “Suscepit Israel” is the highlight, however: a bittersweet Carissimi-like trio (perhaps more Scarlatti Stabat mater in supplication?) If ‘sad’ seems a weak word, it is not meant to be; it is just that the actors of this piece are not tearing at their hair but letting the weight of the events they are witnessing sink deep into their beings as individuals. Suzuki’s performance will persuade you that Bach’s unsurpassed technique never obfuscates the essence of the chorale; its Christmas provenance is fragrantly atmospheric. The Pastorale, with its exquisite musette-like opening, whose subsequent C major movement trips along in a manner organists seem universally reluctant to pursue, is simply a pearl. Presented as a grand work with a single-voice chorus, this reading of the Magnificat is as vitally conceived and multi-dimensional as I can recall. Prepare to be uplifted. The Fugue from the above-mentioned D minor is a case in point: the glistening parallel motion over the pedal at 3'20", often a bloated gesture, enticingly holds back to set up the rich-textured gravitas that follows. Elsewhere, I found Hantai's feeling for the fantasy and poetry of Bach's music effective and well placed (such as in Var 13). Lionel Salter (December 1999). He played those sonatas as though he had lived with late Beethoven a long time and had perceived and understood everything. The most problematic ‘transcription’ here is the A major (BWV1055), a work that has confounded scholars as to its true provenance, not least owing to its low register and figuration that seems almost deliberately unidiomatic. Levit has a sure judgment of when to leave well alone, as CPE Bach advised when discussing this aspect of his father’s music. Price. The latter is one of the great icons of music, but after Bach’s death, it went unperformed for nearly 80 years until a young Felix Mendelssohn reintroduced it to the world. In his own day, he was famed chiefly for his keyboard skills, and much of his time was spent writing for the churches where he worked. They have a Gouldian intensity that draws you ineluctably in without any of the Canadian’s wilfulness. Generic early music politesse is relegated to the shadows. And together she and this superb orchestra show exemplary contrapuntal clarity while also outlining the music’s architecture through glinting dynamic changes or compelling long-range crescendos and diminuendos.
This contrasts with the energetic outer movements in which the two players brilliantly spark off each other. That recording was something of a yardstick at a time when the pioneering compact disc coincided with the second birth of the ‘early music movement’ in tsunami mode: Gardiner let rip, in short, with a towering performance of blazing choruses and oratorian solos, firmly planting his feet in the DG space that Karl Richter had vacated with his early death four years earlier. The galant character adopted by Butt’s elegant harpsichord continuo, Patrick Beaugiraud’s poignant oboe and tasteful strings during “Qui sedes” proceeds without pause into “Quoniam”; Anneke Scott’s sparky horn playing and Matthew Brook’s conversational authority conspire to take no prisoners, and the momentum carries through into a knock-out “Cum Sancto Spiritu”. The Aria is now mesmerically slow. Top-notch recording quality, too. The four Orchestral Suites are supremely life-affirming music, fully realised here with playing that emphasises rhythmic vitality and poise, as well as giving inspiring expression to Bach’s wonderful melodic lines. Ólafsson’s notes tell of his discovery of Bach pianists as different as Edwin Fischer, Rosalyn Tureck, Dinu Lipatti, Glenn Gould and Martha Argerich. Several choices reveal sincere reflection about how Bach might have expected such concertos to be played during his years of service at Cöthen, such as the use of low ‘Cammerton’ pitch (A=392) and Werkmeister III temperament, and a decision to tune the viola da gamba and violone grosso to ‘Chorton’ (ie up a third) in order to better exploit the sonorities of open strings. A few chorales are heard over and over. He stressed the dance basis of the movements; and his vitality, rhythmic flexibility (to clarify the shape of phrases) and tonal nuance, and the vigour and variety of his bowing, still leap from the discs to impress the listener. Bach took the Italian trio sonata and “organ-ised” it, assigning the two melodic lines to one manual apiece and the bass to the pedal. Its text is a popular subject in the Lutheran tradition: “Has God forsaken me? The sound quality is right on the mark and it verily feels as if one is present as he recorded it. A quite wonderful CD. Yes, this is certainly the spirit which I like to prevail in my Goldberg Variations. Francis Jacob – whose Bach recital (Zig-Zag, 5/01) remains a favourite – provides considered accounts of two significant solo organ works. Her desolate, almost whispered ‘Die Trauernacht’ in ‘Es ist vollbracht!’ also stabs to the heart. With these impressive performances (on her beautiful-toned Amati) of the Solo Sonatas and Partitas Monica Huggett sweeps other baroque interpretations off the board. The soprano motif on ‘und dein Blut, mir zugut’ (‘thy life and thy blood’) is uttered with such sustained and ritualised other-worldliness (track 15, 5'38") that the risk of disembodiment is only allayed by the Monteverdi Choir’s captivating certainty of line as the devoted soul drifts heavenwards. A similar sequence follows Part 1, and Part 2 is prefaced by another organ chorale. Angela Hewitt includes, as she says, ‘a harpsichord in its traditional role as continuo’. Mayhew Lake - G. Schirmer, Inc. For full band, brass choir, woodwind choir or even smaller ensembles, these 16 Bach chorales are the perfect way to begin any rehearsal. Such is Gardiner’s dramatic placement that the predominance of D major never palls. You may not agree with the Freiburgers’ refusal to over-dot in the overtures but you’ll have to agree that, through persuasive phrasing, they perform these sections entirely convincingly. Chorales in Bach's Vocal Works Discussions - Part 1: Prominent chorale in Bach cantatas: David McKay wrote (July 6, 2001): I am a newcomer to Bach's cantatas, and am going through the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt set. Simply glorious. Invigorating, virtuosic playing of this kind deserves to win friends, and my recommendation is that, whether or not you already possess one or more recordings of the Goldbergs, you make a firm commitment to add this one to your library. I wonder what he’ll do next. And yet Perahia’s Bach has plenty going on: you attend to one layer of counterpoint, then return for another and so on, discovering something new each time. They are always a living feature of the line, arising from within, not stuck on from without. From the outset here, Gardiner’s meticulous grasp of the detail and architecture in tandem is almost terrifyingly auspicious. Butt’s flowing tempo for “Agnus Dei” prevents Margot Oitzinger from conveying the breathtaking timelessness some might hanker after but catharsis is tangible in “Benedictus” (performed movingly by Hobbs and flautist Katy Bircher). Fournier can sparkle too, as he does in many of the faster dance-orientated movements such as courantes, gavottes, bourrees and so on; in the sarabandes, on the other hand, he invariably strikes a note of grandeur coupled with a concentration amounting at times – as in the sarabandes of Suites Nos. Above all, they are fresh and joyous. Expertly stylish recordings of the six concertos Bach presented in neat copy to the Margrave of Brandenburg in March 1721 are two-a-penny but the Dunedin Consort offer more substantial style and bona fide expertise than most. 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