Among traditional modern-instrument versions of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Wolfgang Gönnenwein’s 1968 recording has a lot to offer. Not least is the excellent choral singing from top to bottom. The texts are always clear, and the pacing for the chorales is governed by the story’s dramatic unfolding. You can’t help but be hooked by Evangelist Theo Altmeyer’s warm tone and vivid portrayal, complemented by Franz Crass’ sonorous, touching Jesus. What a joy it is to hear Teresa Zylis-Gara, Julia Hamari, and Hermann Prey at the peak of their respective powers. Tenor Nicolai Gedda is heard to better advantage with Gönnenwein than in Otto Klemperer’s recording, where he struggled with that conductor’s craggy tempos. The orchestra plays beautifully, and the engineering does full justice to Bach’s antiphonal interplay. All the recitatives are accompanied by rather dutiful chordal backing from the organ and cello (Bach adds a “halo” of strings, of course, whenever Jesus opens his mouth). A harpsichordist with a bent for improvisation would have spruced up the texture. Lovers of great Bach singing, however, will treasure this release.(Jed Distler)
For fans of Il Giardino Armonico's flamboyant flourishes and exuberant expressiveness, it's like having all your birthdays at once, being presented with this great Warner Classics 11 CD set. My own feeling is that this "free" approach to Baroque music is at its best when applied to the theatrical music of disc 8 or the seventeenth century Italian music on disc 1. The showmanship and playfulness is an absolute joy in many of those pieces. I'm less satisfied with the interpretations of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, (on discs 10 and 11), which require a different approach, I feel. I like my Bach to be a little more measured and subtle, I suppose. It has no need of the Il Giardino Armonico treatment. On the whole, though, I do love this set and wouldn't be without it.
Boston Baroque and Martin Pearlman recorded a splendid set of the Brandenburg Concertos on period instruments in 1993 and 1994. Made entirely in the US, these snappy, crisply articulated, and fluent performances rely heavily on the talents of violinist Daniel Stepner (who doubles as one of the two solo violists in Concerto No. 6). Among the highlights are the joyous finale to Concerto No. 4 and the superb cembalo cadenza in No. 5, played by Pearlman. Along with outstanding sound, there's a winning sense of freshness and discovery in these performances.
J.S. Bach's Johannes-Passion, or St. John Passion, BWV 245 – one of just two surviving Bach Passion works out of an original four or five – is, simply put, a headache for editors and performers wishing to recreate the authentic, stamped-and-approved original work. There is no such beast: the work was performed at least four times during Bach's lifetime, and for each new presentation he overhauled the music, adding numbers, deleting numbers, changing numbers, so that today we really have four different St. John Passions through which to pick and choose our way. Happily enough, however, Bach misses the mark in not a single one of those numbers, and the director can hardly go wrong selecting from such a wealth of fine material. The St. John Passion was first heard on April 7, 1724 (Good Friday), and then reproduced for Leipzig churchgoers in 1725, sometime in the early 1730s (perhaps 1732), and then again in 1749. Perhaps in part because of its sometimes bewildering compositional history and the fact that its texts were not really conceived as a single entity (Bach seems to have arranged the texts himself from a number of disparate sources, and sometimes his efforts – which seem to have been hasty ones – are not altogether graceful), the St. John Passion has never been a sweepingly popular work like the St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244. But it is a monumental work that must have made quite an impression indeed at its first performance, early on in Bach's tenure as Cantor of Leipzig.
The sonatas and partitas for solo violin (BWV 1001–1006) are a set of six works composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. They are sometimes referred to in English as the sonatas and partias for solo violin in accordance with Bach's headings in the autograph manuscript: "Partia" (plural "Partien") was commonly used in German-speaking regions during Bach's time, whereas the Italian "partita" was introduced to this set in the 1879 Bach Gesellschaft edition, having become standard by that time. The set consists of three sonatas da chiesa in four movements and three partitas (or partias) in dance-form movements.
The set was completed by 1720, but was only published in 1802 by Nikolaus Simrock in Bonn. Even after publication, it was largely ignored until the celebrated violinist Joseph Joachim started performing these works. Today, Bach's Sonatas and Partitas are an essential part of the violin repertoire, and they are frequently performed and recorded.
Glenn Gould was this century's greatest Bach player, so these legendary recordings are self-recommending. While other fine pianists have made powerful statements in this music, no one sounds anything like Gould. His phenomenal clarity of articulation, digital control, and well, just plain interesting way with the music set him completely apart from the competition. With playing of this individuality and quality, it's pointless to engage in any debate with respect to the appropriateness of the piano versus the harpsichord. Scholars and pedants may continue to argue, but the fact is, it doesn't matter. Great musicianship always serves great music best.-David Hurwitz
Die 1977 in Buenos Aires geborene Evangelina Mascardi studierte in ihrer Heimatstadt Gitarre an der „J.P. Esnaola National School of Music" bei Silvia Fernandez und Gabriel Schebor, bevor sie 1997 in die Lautenklasse von Hopkinson Smith an der „Schola Cantorum Basiliensis" eintrat, wo sie 2001 ihr Solistendiplom erlangt hat. Als Solistin nahm sie an mit großem Erfolg an verschiedenen Festivals teil (u.a. „Fringe" Barcelona. „Junge Künstler" Nürnberg, „Concentus" Berlin). Evangelina Mascardi spielt Continuo in verschiedenen Ensembles, wie „Venice Baroque Orchestra", „Zefiro", „Ensemble 415", „Capriccio Basel", „Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne" u.a…
Most of us come to the Saint John Passion knowing the Saint Matthew Passion first. The bigger and more elaborate Saint Matthew, which came along three, or possibly five years later (there is controversy about the date), has tended to cast a shadow in which the earlier work is swallowed up, and this has been so ever since Mendelssohn's Saint Matthew performance in 1829 marked the beginning of the public rediscovery of J.S. Bach. (The professionals had never forgotten.) But if the Saint John is smaller in scale than the Saint Matthew, it is hardly the lesser work in quality, though it would of course be silly to claim that the master of the Saint Matthew Passion had not learned from the experience of setting Saint John. But the most interesting differences between these two towering attestations of faith are differences in intention. Read Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, and John 18-19, and you get four tellings of the last days in the life of Jesus that differ in tone, emphasis, and detail…
It’s now time for a release with the famous German organist Helmut Walcha. This is the first of initially 4 releases with Walcha playing J. S. Bach. He recorded the complete works by J. S. Bach twice, from 1947-1950 in mono on the Schnitger organ in Cappel and in St. Jakobi in Lübeck and 1956-1971 on the famous organ in Alkmaar. This release is from the Alkmaar serie and is therefore in stereo. A quite interesting thing is to compare it with the IHORC14 release, where Fernando Germani plays the exact same organ about two years later…