Lindsay Kemp (March 2013), Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment & Polyphony / Stephen Layton. The five principals combine to rapturous effect in “Et incarnatus est”, and Butt’s handling of the strings and flutes during “Crucifixus” is both patient and emotionally charged. Andras Schiff, like Perahia, commands a wide range of colours, though the binding force of Perahia’s concentration – always a boon in his latest recordings – leaves the stronger impression. Bach mediates between the French and the Italian styles in the course of the six works, and Levit doesn’t miss a trick. Applied with more plain-spoken authority, such emphatic strength of wrist and will rather chews up the Tenth’s preludial bars and the expansive, chorale-fantasia conclusion of the Fifth, though with equal force one senses that, in this case, they had to be so. Bryce Morrison (May 2001). Harriet Smith (November 2016). I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the reconstructed concertos sound so convincing (especially the D minor), the trio sonatas go at a thrilling lick that surely no organ could keep up with and the sinfonias simply gleam. Try the second movement of the E minor Sonata, for example, or that of the C major. The variety of string articulation together with Gibley’s discrete harmonisations further serve both to enliven and to elucidate Bach’s musical arguments. A hint of over-exuberant thickness in the texture of Concerto No 1 is perhaps a reflection of this, but elsewhere it is good to hear playing from the likes of violinist Kati Debretzeni, flautist Katy Bircher and the excellent David Blackadder on trumpet that is bold and confident without straying into coarseness. Stephen Plaistow (October 2014). Its text is a popular subject in the Lutheran tradition: “Has God forsaken me? Some might find the basic pulse of the First and Fifth Sarabandes perhaps too slow. This is music-making to lift the spirits. For Beethoven, for Mozart in his maturity and for Chopin, it was the same. The experience seems to have drawn the musicians together and intensified their commitment. Fournier seems to me to have possessed all the virtues of his fellow cellists without yielding to any of their self-indulgences; irrelevant personal idiosyncrasies are never allowed to intrude these finely sustained performances. She nails her colours firmly to the mast in her printed introductory note (which follows an uncommonly perceptive and informative commentary on the music by Mark Audus): her aim, she says, is a characteristically bright and sweet seventeenth-century timbre, and she declares herself less interested in the virtuoso aspect of the music, more in the “interior spirituality of the sonatas and the gracious elegance of the partitas”. Perhaps not surprisingly, Stravinsky was beguiled by the possibility of its intertwining lines in his inventive homage of 1956, with its supra-polyphonic interpolations. And so it continues: almost as if Ólafsson is offering different angles on the statue of Bach that he keeps by his piano – one that ‘looks like wisdom incarnate, stern-faced and majestic in its wig’. To find out more about subscribing to this unique and endlessly fascinating resource, visit: gramophone.co.uk/subscribe. Perahia is not an artist who takes Bach to extremes: he doesn’t intervene in the way that Maria João Pires or Piotr Anderszewski can do to such mesmerising effect. Igor Levit’s late Beethoven sonatas (11/13) and Bach Partitas (10/14) on Sony Classical have already made bold declarations of his pianistic and artistic prowess. 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. International licensing, If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to, JS Bach: the 2020 Editor's Choice recordings, Recording Bach's Three-Part Inventions at home. 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. History has not judged kindly the revisiting of major Bach choral works by eminent conductors. That is not to say that this performance is not of the highest level intellectually and technically: it is, and largely because of its appreciation of these suites as not just dances but discourses almost verbal in their directness. I like the way that Ólafsson alternates original Bach with the transcriptions, so that Stradal’s take on the middle movement of Bach’s Fourth Organ Sonata (given here with generous use of sustaining pedal to create a poetic ambience) is followed by a refreshingly airborne account of the D major Prelude from Book 1 of The Well-Tempered Clavier, while its Fugue melds clarity with nobility. Bach developed these movements to make thrilling conclusions, just as he had made the opening of each work something imposing and unexpected. Since then she has pursued a steady and successful career as both soloist and chamber musician, with a sizeable discography to her credit. Bach arr. Level. Elle ne contient que les chorals harmonisés à quatre voix. Great instrument aside, this is largely down to the judicious alchemy of Suzuki’s perception of how architecture and local colour can collide to mesmerising effect. The bass lines drive the music forwards, the crowd scenes declaim with quicksilver interpolations to the Evangelist’s cries and tempos are allowed to push and pull at key moments. Johann Sebastian Bach: Chorales: Wenn ich in Angst und Noth, BWV 427 . Its character, furthermore, is admirably captured by the effectively resonant recorded sound, a shade too close for some ears, perhaps, but not for me. And at every turn, he harnesses the possibilities of the piano in the service of Bach; the result is a clear labour of love, and one in which he shines new light on old music to mesmerising effect, all of which is captured by a warmly sympathetic recording and an engaging booklet-note by Mark Audus. Bach. Gardiner would disagree. All in all, this counts as yet another exceptional Bach-Perahia release. Gardiner challenges orthodoxy in how these a cappella holy grails are fundamentally signposted and he does so, almost always, with persuasive passion and genuine zeal. There are few who strive sincerely to juxtapose the bedfellows of academic rigour and inspired musicianship. Rob Cowan (December 2000). 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. Wary as I am of superlatives, I can claim without hesitation that Ewa Pobłocka’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 encompasses some of the greatest and most fulfilling Bach pianism on record. In his booklet-note Gardiner repeats his assertion that Bach’s great skill as an artist lay in his ability to write music with supreme power to console, and it is clear that this is what he has looked for here. Three Wedding Chorales autograph Bach's autograph of the wedding chorales BWV 250–252, written between 1734 and 1738. There are so many other delights: the subtle comings and goings of the Third Prélude, the nobly poised Fifth Allemande, the swaggering climax that is the Sixth Gigue – I cannot mention them all. Interpretative decisions are intelligently applied; and Hewitt is at her best in the slow movements, all of which are played with the finest sensibility. DG’s engineers have done this remarkable musician proud. For the most part she is very sparing with embellishments, decorating ritornellos of the E major Gavotte and the first half (only) of the D minor Sarabande, but then suddenly becomes lavish in the repeats of the A minor Allegro. Rather, Solomon ensures that the phrases are neither choppy nor fragmented. As a necessary corollary‚ her performances could hardly be more stylish or impeccable‚ more vital or refined; and‚ as a crowning touch‚ Hyperion’s sound is superb. 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. We have had several decent ‘chamber’ St Johns in recent years – including recordings from the Ricercar Consort (7/11), Cantus Cölln and Portland Baroque (both 3/12) – but this new one from John Butt and the Dunedin Consort really struck home for me by achieving its vital results without extravagant overstatement, overt ‘holiness’ or self-conscious marking-out of the work’s architecture. One of the world’s brightest Baroque ensembles performing with one of the world’s most admired Baroque sopranos sounds an enticing proposition‚ and so it should. Jonathan Freeman-Attwood (October 2015). 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. Any lover of harmony and/or music theory will treasure this collection of the Bach chorales. I look forward to Book 2. The playing of the Gigues in the Partitas – and the final Capriccio in No 2 in C minor – invite the performer’s virtuosity as a welcome guest to the feast. Not everyone will like the brisk tempi (though the Allemandes, for instance, gain in architectural coherence), but few will fail to be charmed by Isserlis’s sweetly singing tone, his perfectly voiced chords and superb control of articulation and dynamic – the way the final chord of the First Prélude dies away is spellbinding. The way he has considered the touch and dynamic of every phrase means that these are readings that constantly impress with fresh details each time you hear them. Bach composed around 30 and reharmonised around 400 melodies, so we have quite a large material to search through. Of all the great cellists I have heard playing Bach's six Cello Suites, BWV1007-12, either in the concert hall or in recordings of various kinds, Pierre Fournier came closer to the heart of the music, as I understand it, than almost any other. Perhaps no pianist since Charles Rosen has so persuasively demonstrated that this contrapuntal encyclopedia is to be heard as well as read. Like Hewitt, he surpasses himself. He follows Tovey in finding No 3 to be “one of Bach’s most beautiful pieces of quiet chromatic slow music”, after which the extraordinary cadences of No 4 (actually the final completed movement) are necessarily pedalled and clipped, even chirpy: the envoi of a true Kapellmeister. The opening growls with the same prescient foreboding and authority of the very best accounts of the past 70 years, whether Karl Richter’s first or Harnoncourt’s final reading. The lingua franca of this recording is Suzuki’s incessantly perceptive blend of directly projected imagery and inward devotion, underpinned by theatrical fervour in the narrative; one never doubts Bach or Suzuki’s belief in its importance for mankind. Passions are large-scale choral works telling of the suffering and death of Christ, and none come finer than those of Bach, of which two have come down to us: the St John and the St Matthew. Wednesday, January 6, 2021, 50 of the finest JS Bach recordings available, complete with the original Gramophone reviews and an exclusive playlist. Bach’s cantatas (nearly 200 sacred and a good handful of secular ones survive) are all the more remarkable when you think that this was real bread-and-butter stuff, produced for the church services every week. 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. 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