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.
]Yoshikazu Mera born May 21, 1971, in Miyazaki, Japan, is a Japanese countertenor. His range is three and a half octaves. Originally wanting to become a pop singer, Mera now primarily sings classical music from the West but also classical Japanese music. He appears frequently as a soloist with the Bach Collegium Japan, which under its conductor Masaaki Suzuki performs Baroque music. His 1998 recital disc "Nightingale" on Sweden's BIS Records was a major success in Japan.
Masaaki Suzuki is a Japanese organist, harpsichordist and conductor, and the founder and musical director of the Bach Collegium Japan. He also teaches and conducts at Yale University and has conducted orchestras and choruses around the world. He was born in Kobe to parents who were both Christians and amateur musicians; his father had worked professionally as a pianist. Masaaki Suzuki began playing organ professionally at church services at the age of 12.
Three double concertos for harpsichord by Bach survive, all dating from around 1736, and all arrangements of earlier compositions. BWV 1060 is thought to have originated as a now lost double concerto for oboe and violin, while BWV 1062 is a reworking of the well-loved concerto for two violins. Unlike these two works, BWV 1061 was composed for two harpsichords from the outset, but probably started out as a concerto without orchestral accompaniment – this will have been added later. Performing these works, with a quintet of string players from the Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki is joined by his son Masato. For the present disc Masato Suzuki has also taken a page from Bach’s own book, in arranging the composer’s Orchestral Suite No.1 for two unaccompanied harpsichords.
Masaaki Suzuki is firmly established as a leading authority on the works of Bach, both in his capacity as director of the Bach Collegium Japan and as an organist and harpsichordist. In recent years he has also been appearing in front of eminent orchestras worldwide, however, conducting repertoire as diverse as Britten, Fauré or Mahler. For his first recording of 20th century repertoire, Suzuki has chosen to collaborate with the acclaimed Tapiola Sinfonietta in an all-Stravinsky programme. The disc begins with the music for Pulcinella – here in the concert suite devised by the composer – which Stravinsky later described as ‘the epiphany through which the whole of my later work became possible’. Pulcinella was commissioned in 1919 by the Ballets Russes, for which Stravinsky had already written The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring. For this adaptation of an early eighteenth-century commedia dell'arte libretto, he based his score on existing music, initially ascribed to Pergolesi although material by other baroque composers is also included.
The Reformations fundamental alterations to traditional forms of church service, had, by Bach's time, resulted in German churches Latin yielding to the country's own language. To a limited extent, however, the Latin mass text did remain in use in the Protestant church in particular the Kyrie and Gloria sections. Termed Missa to differentiate them from complete settings, these pieces are often referred to now as 'Lutheran Masses'. Bach's famous Mass in B minor began its existence as a work of this type, and four other examples from Bach's pen have survived. Newly performed and recorded by Bach Collegium Japan under the direction of Masaaki Suzuki, the Missae BWV 235 and 236 are here combined with four separate settings of the Sanctus. Two of these are original works, whereas BWV 241, and possibly also 240, is an arrangement of another composers setting. The 'KyrieChriste' BWV Anh 26 is an example of how Bach used music by other composers, in this case by his Neapolitan contemporary Francesco Durante.
For this hybrid SACD of famous organ works by J.S. Bach, Masaaki Suzuki plays the restored Schnitger-Hinz organ in the Martinikerk (Martin's Church), in Groningen, one of the most celebrated instruments in the Netherlands and one which dates back to Bach's time. Its bright, Baroque sonorities and Suzuki's historically informed interpretations give these performances a compelling sense of authenticity and period style. The pieces are among Bach's greatest hits, particularly the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which gives the program a decisive opening. Following that flashy demonstration, Suzuki is relaxed and almost contemplative in the Pastorale in F major, and continues his thoughtful readings in the Partita on "O Gott, du frommer Gott," the Prelude and Fugue in G minor, and the Canonic Variations on "Vom Himmel hoch da komm' ich her." Yet he includes two sparkling virtuoso performances in the Fantasia in G major and the Prelude and Fugue in E minor, which keep the album from being too soft and subdued. BIS' super audio sound is crisp and detailed, which is no mean feat in a church recording.
To the general public, Masaaki Suzuki is known as the inspired leader of Bach Collegium Japan, currently undertaking a complete cycle of Bach's cantatas for BIS. He has also received much praise for his on-going recordings of the harpsichord music by the same composer. But his début was actually as an organist – he started playing regularly at Sunday services at the age of 12! When going to the Netherlands to study, Suzuki pursued parallel courses, graduating with a soloist's diploma in both organ and harpsichord.