Karl Richter’s recordings of Bach’s orchestral and sacred music influenced an entire generation of musicians and listeners, presenting the conductor’s unique sound and style. When Richter recorded Bach’s works, he freed them from a ponderous tradition that had mired the music in romantic sounds and idiom. Richter lightened Bach’s music, and, with an orchestra of outstanding musicians, helped bring it toward the more modern interpretations that listeners have become familiar with today. This is still a bit far from the historically-informed performances that are pretty much the norm, but there is a unity and natural originality that comes through the music in these recordings.
The work of another relatively new antiquarian group, the Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin, is altogether more interesting. Performing with no set director and alternating concertmasters, the academy applies fuller instrumentation to the suites and takes a compleatist approach to repeats(Harmonia Mundi).
The music of the Eighteenth century features delicate textures and refinement as well as expressiveness and energy. This was the age of the smaller chamber orchestra, and Bach was one of the compositional geniuses of the century. In this recording, the award-winning Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, which specializes in authentic renditions on fine reproduction period instruments, performs four delightful Bach suites, including No. 1 in C, No. 2 in B Minor and Nos. 3 and 4 in D Major.
Hans-Martin Linde and his consort of period instruments emphasize the glories of Bach's marvellous tonal palette, making much of the sonorities afforded by the writing. From beginning to end these are performances which set the blood coursing through one's veins; Linde reckons that if Bach went to the trouble of scoring movements for trumpets, drums, oboes, bassoons and strings, then he probably was aiming at vivid, if not heroic gestures. [N.A. Gramophone+[/quote]
These four suites, which Bach gave the title ouverture in a reference to French opera, contain some of Bach's finest orchestral writing. Each is composed of a series of dance movements scored for strings and a small contingent of winds. Sir Neville Marriner leads a delightful performance on modern instruments.
Much of Bach's music is abstract enough that it can easily be arranged for new instrumental combinations, and often was by the composer himself. The music for unaccompanied violin and for unaccompanied cello forms an exceptional case; the sonatas and partitas for solo violin were part of a long tradition of virtuoso violin music to which Bach was making a conscious contribution, and the six suites for solo cello were written as extensions of the ideas in the violin pieces. Transferring the cello suites to a solo recorder, which is incapable of executing many details of the cello scores, is thus something Bach probably wouldn't have countenanced. ..