The inexhaustible and compelling journey of exploring Bach’s cantatas and the great choruses which define the heart of their message – lies primarily in the depth, richness and variety of Bach’s response to the seamless rhythm of the liturgical year. Particular events in the Lutheran calendar are associated with the contemplative or the celebratory and yet, within these seasonal expectations, Bach departs radically from convention in his nearly-200 surviving church cantatas written between about 1703 and the late 1740s.
Being that J.S. Bach is arguably the most influential classical composer in history, it's fair to say that his most crucial works ought to form the foundation of every classical-music collection. This 5-CD set (especially at that price) is the place to start, as it brings together Bach's Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1-6; Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor; Violin Concerto No. 2 in E; Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings and Continuo in D Minor; Goldberg Variations (Andras Schiff); Tocatta and Fuge in D Minor; Suite No. 3 in D: Air on the G String/Fugue in G Minor "The Little"; Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C; Concerto for Violin, Oboe and Strings in D Minor , and more!
Alfred Schnittke's Second Concerto Grosso is a different creature than his First. While the 1977 Concerto Grosso No. 1 for 2 Violins, Strings and Keyboards is a lithe, vicious, often comical work, the Second, finished five years later, is a weightier affair. The soloists are now violin and cello; the Baroque band is now a full orchestra with electric guitar, drum kit, and brake drum; there are four large movements rather than six smaller ones; the entire work is imbued with an air of sincere tragedy, albeit with mud on its shoes. Schnittke dedicated the work to its premiere soloists, husband-and-wife duo Oleg Kagan (violin) and Natalia Gutman (cello); famed for their flawless ensemble, the couple inspired in Schnittke a musical air of companionship – a single soul in two instruments.
This release is part of a set of Bach cantata recordings by the Belgian group Il Gardellino and director Marcel Ponseele: not an entire new Bach cantata cycle but a set of thematically oriented recordings that may also include works by other composers. "De profundis" (from the depths) offers three cantatas based on Psalm 130, which begins with the words "From the depths I cry to thee, Lord" and was translated into German in several ways.
The Ensemble Pygmalion directed by Raphaël Pichon commences its collaboration with Harmonia Mundi with this new recording of J.S. Bach’s lost music to the Köthener Trauermusik (Cöthen funeral music), BWV 244a. Founded in 2006 at the European Bach Festival, Ensemble Pygmalion is a combination of choir and orchestra - all young performers with experience of authentic instruments and period-informed performance. Its repertoire concentrates primarily on Johann Sebastian Bach and Jean-Philippe Rameau.