A new recording from violinist Rachel Podger is always worth attention. And before you even get to appreciating the first-class performances - faithful realizations of Bach’s Art of Fugue skillfully arranged for strings - you notice the immediate, vibrant presence of the instruments. The sound is stunning, reminiscent of the early days of digital recording, when listeners used to marvel at how realistic the sound was. Channel Classics has been doing this forever; we just may have forgotten how special it is when it’s done right.
C.P.E. Bach would undoubtedly rejoice, were he alive, upon hearing this album of his cello concertos by Truls Mørk and Les Violons du Roy under the direction of Bernard Labadie. From the opening notes, one cannot help but feel the orchestra is fantastic. The A major Cello Concerto begins with vigor and liveliness, with the ensemble playing perfectly together in tempo with great spirit. Mørk plays just as well, with a clean, accurate, and somewhat light touch.
Rarely do we feel the presence of Bach so vividly on a recording as we do here with this set of Trio Sonata arrangements, performed by violins, viola da gamba, and harpsichord. What a perfect combination, thanks to Richard Boothby's settings and to the wonderfully synergistic interaction among these very experienced early music players–violinists Catherine Mackintosh (in her best recorded performance in a while) and Catherine Weiss, gambist Boothby, and harpsichordist Robert Woolley.
Rarely do we feel the presence of Bach so vividly on a recording as we do here with this set of Trio Sonata arrangements, performed by violins, viola da gamba, and harpsichord. What a perfect combination, thanks to Richard Boothby's settings and to the wonderfully synergistic interaction among these very experienced early music players--violinists Catherine Mackintosh (in her best recorded performance in a while) and Catherine Weiss, gambist Boothby, and harpsichordist Robert Woolley. There's certainly nothing wrong with arranging Bach's music like this--and indeed, Boothby does "mix things up" by transposing keys and instrumental lines--as Bach himself reused, rearranged, and transposed his own and others' music. In these string versions of pieces normally performed on the organ we hear occasional enticing hints of the violin concertos and, because of the instruments' different registers and colors, the lines emerge in new and surprising ways. This disc makes a nice companion to Bernard Labadie's arrangement of the Goldberg Variations for strings and continuo, recorded with Les Violons du Roy on Dorian (see reviews and features): both are distinguished for their learned, totally faithful, yet refreshingly entertaining and enlightening recastings of music that's not only timeless but seemingly limitless in its revelatory capacity. The sound is demonstration quality--this is one of those recordings that when you turn it up to just the right level, the instruments come to stunningly real, three-dimensional life, no fancy surround-sound or other high end equipment needed.ClassicsToday - David Vernier
Bach’s Goldberg Variations have played a central role in harpsichordist Pierre Hantai’s musical life since his early youth. At 28 he recorded the work for the Opus 111 label (now available on Naïve), a highly acclaimed release that stands among the work’s choice versions. Over the past 11 years Hantai evidently has rethought and refined his interpretation, as revealed in this 2003 remake. There’s greater rhythmic freedom and variety of articulation, plus a more subjective approach to ornaments and agogics, especially in the repeats (he observes all but those in Variation 15, 25, and the Aria Da Capo; the 1992 recording honors all repeats save for Variation 25). Variations previously characterized through Hantai’s seamless legato technique (Nos. 3, 6, 8, 11, 17, and 18, for example) are further enlivened by detaché finger strokes and more inflected phrasings. The latter infuse Variations 7, 10, and 16 with greater resilience and rhythmic verve than their earlier counterparts.
Youngest son of J.S. Bach, Johann Christian Bach rose to prominence in England during the early Classical period much the same as his father dominated the German Baroque. His writing was influenced by his father, of course, but also by the fashions being explored by Haydn. J.C. Bach also served as a bridge to Mozart, whose work and early writings were also influenced by the junior Bach. A total of 15, three-movement symphonies were published under Opp. 6, 9, and 18.
Given the considerable number of recordings that have tried to place Renaissance compositions within the context for which they were written, it is odd that the same has so rarely been done for Bach. After all, most of Bach's output consists of Gebrauchsmusik, music written for daily use. This release by Scotland's historical-instrument Dunedin Consort and its leader John Butt shows the possibilities of this approach.