The father of the Baroque period, Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the greatest composers of all time. His works, covering a wide range of instruments and voice types, continue to flourish to this day, forming a core part of musical learning. This special disc brings together the Trio Sonatas BWV525–530, works that originally appeared in a manuscript of works for organ. In this form, the pieces naturally became part of Bach’s teaching – a notable contribution to his oldest son Wilhelm Friedemann’s virtuoso organ technique.
Thoroughly trained by his father Johann Sebastian, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach became renowned as a virtuoso harpsichordist and organist. His surviving organ music includes the seven choral preludes and ten fugues on this disc, which range from relatively simple settings to elaborate displays of counterpoint. Born in Rio de Janeiro and based in the USA, Julia Brown, who has made several acclaimed recordings of keyboard music by Buxtehude and Scheidemann for Naxos, has been praised as ‘a first-class artist and superb technician … an exceptionally sensitive stylist’.
This recording brings together all the arrangements for harpsichord by Bach of instrumental concertos by his Italian contemporary Antonio Vivaldi, adding those of one concerto each by the brothers Alessandro and Benedetto Marcello. They are performed by Sophie Yates who has made a series of solo CDs for Chandos, many of which have won international awards. She has been described by Gramophone as ‘hugely talented’ and by BBC Music as playing ‘with exceptional poise’.
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)
Fitting her reputation for interpreting the keyboard repertoire in a big way, Hélène Grimaud presents her first recording of J.S. Bach's works with transcriptions by Ferruccio Busoni, Franz Liszt, and Sergei Rachmaninov, which were all intended to update the music for the modern grand piano. Because Grimaud's style is direct and robust, reminiscent of Martha Argerich, and the transcriptions are dramatically more pianistic than the originals, Bach purists should look elsewhere for more meticulous and historically informed performances of these Baroque pieces, perhaps on fortepiano or harpsichord.