Much of Bach’s organ music was written during the earlier part of his career, culminating in the period he spent as court organist at Weimar. Among many well-known compositions we may single out the Dorian Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 538, the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, BWV 564, Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542, Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582, Prelude and Fugue “St Anne”, BWV 552 (in which the fugue theme resembles the well-known English hymn of that name), Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, and the Toccata and Fugue in F, BWV 540. Chorale preludes are compositions for organ that consist of short variations on simple hymn tunes for all seasons of the church year. Better-known melodies used include the Christmas In dulci jubilo, BWV 608, Puer natus in Bethlehem, BWV 603, the Holy Week Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 625, and the Easter Christ ist erstanden, BWV 627, as well as the moving Durch Adam’s Fall ist ganz verderbt, BWV 637, and the familiar Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645, and Nun danket alle Gott, BWV 657.
"It is…a fine pairing of two of Bach’s more extroverted works, in which Herreweghe delves beneath the masculine surface of the Magnificat to find its more tender interior and boldly explores Bach’s expansion of Luther’s great Reformation hymn, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. For whatever reason, Cantata 80 seems to have lost a degree of popularity lately, and it’s good to hear it again, complete with W. F. Bach’s interpolated trumpets."– George Chien
Another entry in Harmonia Mundi's ongoing Bach Edition, this recording from 1993 exemplifies both the consistently high standard of performance we've come to expect from Philippe Herreweghe and his Collegium Vocale and the astonishing musical variety and emotional/spiritual depth of Bach's vocal works. As usual in this series, the program reflects a theme, in this case the feast of Ascension, for which Bach wrote what proved to be his final oratorio (improperly catalogued as a cantata in the original edition of Bach's works) and at least three cantatas. The oratorio contains both original music and, as has recently been shown, several movements taken from cantatas no longer extant. It's a compelling and inexplicably underperformed work, far shorter than Bach's other oratorios, complete with some terrific orchestral music, two wonderful festive choruses, a tenor Evangelist narrator, a charming little duet for tenor and bass, and arias for soprano and alto.
"The Scholl/Herreweghe CD is distinguished by its marriage of beautiful sound and expressive intensity. The richly nuanced orchestral playing remains forceful throughout and Scholl imbues his beguiling voice with a fervent conviction…"– BBC Music Magazine
"Kooy must by now have appeared in more Bach cantata recordings than any other solo singer in history, and even in 1991 when these recordings were made he was an experienced Bach singer of immense authority. His performances of these soul-searching, inward-looking works are stamped with a level of technical command and sensitivity that renders more obvious gesture superfluous. This is masterly and utterly compelling singing."– Brian Robins
The theorbo is a sort of big brother to the lute, with a set of long, unfretted bass strings in addition to the fretted courses. This gives the instrument a wonderful, rich mellow sound which is beautifully evoked and captured in these recordings (from 1992 and 1999). Montailhet is an excellent theorbist and the music, too, is a delight.
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).
Philippe Pierlot and the Ricercar Consort's 2006 recording of Bach's Magnificat brings back the glory days of historically informed performances, those halcyon days in the 1980s when musicians, empowered by scholarship and energized by virtuosity, were recording the Baroque repertoire with the zeal of the newly converted. Though Pierlot and his musicians are of a younger generation, they bring a missionary fervor to the music, a program of Bach's Magnificat, BWV 243, and Missa Brevis, BWV 235, interspersed with two well-chosen organ works, the Fuga sopra il Magnificat, BWV 733, and the Präludium und Fuga, BWV 541. Pierlot's textures are clean, his rhythms buoyant, his colors bright, and tempos brisk, but not rushed in the fast movements, and contemplative but not moribund in the slow movements.
Naxos has done music lovers yet another good turn by releasing these recordings (1932-36), vividly remasterd from 78s. Menuhin was in his later teens when he made them. The concertos in A minor and E are conducted by his teacher Enescu, who is the other soloist in the D minor Double concerto, which Monteux conducts. The performances are compelling, and the slow movements of the solo concertos are imprinted with that beauty of tone and phrase that makes the young Menuhin a permanent wonder. But the Double Concerto is the treasure. The soloists are indistinguishably linked yet each a consummate individual. Playing more heart-easing than in the distraught largo could not be imagined.(Paul Driver)
These works both received their first performances in Leipzig - the Magnificat in 1723 and Cantata 82 in 1727. It was in 1723 that Bach had taken up thepost of Kantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, having previously been Kapellmeisterto Prince Leopold in Cothen. The Magnificat was originally heard ina version in E flat major at Christmas Vespers when movements with seasonaltexts were inserted; the version included on this disc was rendered by Bach someyears later, returning to the ordinary Magnificat text in order to makethe work performable all year round. Bach's approach to the evening canticle ischaracteristically large-scale. There is no use of recitative, owing perhaps tothe poetic nature of the text: the verses have little natural hierarchy and itis appropriate that they should all be afforded extended settings. The scoringis unusually rich and includes three trumpets, two flutes, two oboes, strings,continuo, and timpani - one of the largest ensembles to be assembled at theThomaskirche in Bach's time. Bach takes a literal view of the text in which, forinstance, the full five-part choir is used to demonstrate Omnes generationes ("All generations") with soloists used for the more reflective movements. Ina typically Bachian gesture the opening material returns for Sicut erat inprincipio ("As it was in the beginning").