…These are terrific performances. The single voices or very small choir produce crystal clear textures, and this transparency combined with fine intonation and excellent ensemble produce a really memorable disc.
Karl Richter’s recordings of Bach’s orchestral and sacred music influenced an entire generation of musicians and listeners, presenting the conductor’s unique sound and style. When Richter recorded Bach’s works, he freed them from a ponderous tradition that had mired the music in romantic sounds and idiom. Richter lightened Bach’s music, and, with an orchestra of outstanding musicians, helped bring it toward the more modern interpretations that listeners have become familiar with today. This is still a bit far from the historically-informed performances that are pretty much the norm, but there is a unity and natural originality that comes through the music in these recordings.
The recipient of the 2012 City of Leipzig Bach Medal, Masaaki Suzuki has earned an enviable reputation as an interpreter of the music of J. S. Bach as a reviewer in Intl Record Guide has put it: 'With Suzuki you can hear Bach's heart beat'. To a wide audience he is known as the director of Bach Collegium Japan, and the moving force behind the ensemble's acclaimed recordings of Bach's complete sacred cantatas. Perhaps less well known is that he began his career at the age of 12! playing the organ at church services in Kobe, where he was born. Suzuki has remained true to the organ throughout his life, and for BIS he has previously recorded Bach's German Organ Mass, as well as programs of Buxtehude and Sweelinck. He here appears on a disc combining some of Bach's best-loved works for the instrument, including the D minor Toccata and Fugue, the Partitas on O Gott, du frommer Gott, BWV 767, the Canonic Variations, BWV769, and the celebrated Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV548.
When it came time for Johann Sebastian Bach to publish his Opus 1, what work do you think he picked? One of the sacred cantatas? One of the Brandenburg Concertos? One of the cello suites? No, none of the above. In 1726, Bach chose his B flat major Partita to start his publishing career – and once a year for the next five years, he published five more partitas, then collected them under the title Clavier-Übung in 1731. When it came time for Hungarian pianist András Schiff to make his major-label debut, what work do you think he picked? Yes, that's right. In 1985, Schiff released his recording of the complete partitas – and followed it with many more Bach recordings over the next few years until he'd released nearly the complete canonical works by 1996. And yes, Schiff's partitas are wonderful.
Over the past 40 years Philippe Herreweghe has been working with some extraordinary soloists with whom he has had very fertile and stimulating dialogues, both musically and personally. Philippe Herreweghe: "It seems important to give these musicians the opportunity to express themselves on the label PHI in works they are particularly fond of." This is the case of the present recording. Christine Busch, leader of the orchestra of Collegium Vocale Gent, recorded the Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin by J. S. Bach - a work she admires, and she has been playing since her childhood. Philippe Herreweghe: "Christine Busch inspires by her technical perfection, her strength, her humility, her sense for poetry, as well as by her qualities needed to serve the greatest of all composer".
Philippe Herreweghe is widely considered to be one of the foremost Bach interpreters of our time. This four deluxe CD-Book collection is part of the Philippe herreweghe Bach Edition, and features key works from the Bach canon. Each set in the series is available at a very special low price and features packaging and liner-notes on a par with the best that harmonia mundi offers. These sets are a rare bargain and a must-have for collectors…
Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch is an unusually versatile violinist, predominantly known for her performance of period music but also excelling in many other styles and genres. Her position as concertmaster in the orchestra of Philippe Herreweghe is testament to her skill as an early music performer.
The first thing to note is that this is the 1725 revision of Bach's St. John Passion, not the original 1724 version that is usually performed. This will become immediately apparent to those familiar with the score, as the opening chorus is entirely different in the later revision. Bach substitutes a few of the arias, too, and commentators seem in agreement that this later edition is in fact more incisively dramatic. Philippe Herreweghe has already made a superb recording of the original version, but here the conductor assembles an even finer group of singers for this newer account. Mark Padmore is a marvelously expressive, sweet-toned Evangelist. Sibylla Rubens's agile soprano voice is a joy to the ear. Sebastian Noack's bass seems light at first, but his bright, lyrical sound contrasts effectively with the deeper, more sonorous tone of Michael Volle's Jesus. Countertenor Andreas Scholl, a favorite collaborator of Herreweghe's, is simply stunning. (Andrew Farach-Colton)
Philippe Herreweghe's Bach performances are like no others: spiritual and deeply felt, but also scholarly, and thoroughly thought-through. They sound collaborative, with the vocal soloists given plenty of liberty, but they also give the impression that there is a singular will shaping the performance into a unified and wholly individualistic reading. Even the tone of the period instruments is subtly different: warm yet pungent, colorful yet blended, sometimes sweet, but more often tart. Listeners familiar with the Bach of Gardiner or Harnoncourt may at first be challenged by Herreweghe's approach, but the power of his performances may win them over. In this 1998 Harmonia Mundi recording of the "Matthäus-Passion," tenor Ian Bostridge's account of the central role of the Evangelist is slightly to the left of center, more emotionally expressive, and more rhythmically pliable than most, but Herreweghe's interpretation can easily accommodate him. (James Leonard)
The Collegium Vocale Gent and Orchestre des Champs-Elysées interpret Beethoven's Missa Solemnis for PHI. This major work of the sacred repertoire, high on the list alongside Bach's Mass in B minor and the Mozart Requiem, is Beethoven's longest work and assuredly the one that demanded the most work. The composer even considered the Mass his finest work.