This set includes two of the rarest and hardest to find of all recordings: the 1958-59 version of the Bach Cello Suites by Janos Starker – the one everyone says his later recordings cannot match – and the extremely beautiful performance of Bach's unaccompanied violin sonatas and partitas – the one that Japanese collectors pay 3-digit dollar prices for – in outstanding EMI Digital Re-Masterings.
This SACD from PentaTone was recorded originally in 1970, not long after he’d made his official debut as an organist. (His organ recitals are notable for being played from memory.) The performances were taken down in the then-new quadraphonic system & released on Philips LPs. But of course quadraphonic LPs were a less than ideal carrier for the 4ch sound on the tapes. Fortunately PentaTone, a company founded by ex-Philips personnel, has been reissuing quad recordings on SACDs remastered from those tapes & they sound spectacularly lifelike. They are, of course, in 4ch sound, not the 6ch that the modern SACD system is capable of.
Christopher Wrench commands a broad solo repertoire including the complete organ works of Bach, whilst also working as a liturgical musician, pedagogue & chamber player. He teaches organ at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University & directs the music programme at St Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point in Brisbane. In 2008 he was awarded the Lord Mayor’s Australia Day Cultural Award for his outstanding contribution to the musical life of Brisbane.
Before releasing his first disc of Bach’s organ works, Masaaki Suzuki had recorded the composer’s complete sacred cantatas, as well as the large-scale choral works and much of the music for harpsichord. His achievements in these fields obscured the fact that Suzuki originally trained as an organist, and began working as such already at the age of twelve. So when Volume 1 of this series reached reviewers around the world, it was something of a revelation to many: the disc went on to be named Choice of the Month in BBC Music Magazine, Diapason d’Or in Diapason and Recording of the Month in Gramophone, which then went on to include it on its list of the ‘50 Greatest Bach Recordings’.
Norwegian folk musician Sinikka Langeland, singer and player of the kantele (the Finnish table harp) is a distinctly non-traditional traditionalist, redefining "folk" in successive projects. 'Maria's Song' finds her in the company of two distinguished classical musicians - organist Kare Nordstoga and "giant of the Nordic viola" Lars Anders Tomter - and on a mission to restore Marian texts to sacred music, weaving folk melodies in between the timeless strains of J S Bach. Langeland made a lot of friends with her sparkling ECM debut Starflowers: "There are jewels everywhere on this arresting example of ego-free music-making. One of the albums of this or any other year" raved the Irish Times. Where Starflowers brought Langeland into the orbit of jazz improvisers, Maria's Song is a meeting and cross referencing of folk and 'classical' energies, and also a righting of historical 'injustice': Religious folk songs are amongst the most distinctive elements of the Norwegian folk tradition, yet the Virgin Mary rarely appears in them. Once a much-worshipped figure in the Far North she was, as Sinikka puts it, "reformed" away in 1537, so this album brings Maria back into the music. It was recorded in the beautiful Nidaros Cathedral of Trondheim, famous for its Baroque organ heard here.