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.
'Testament' is Rachel Barton Pine's very personal homage to the music of J. S. Bach, on which she performs the composer's complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin in the acoustic of her hometown St. Pauls Church in Chicago, where she first heard and fell in love with Bach's music.
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.
The arrangement of Bach's Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, for string trio by Russian violinist and composer Dmitry Sitkovetsky has taken on a life of its town, with multiple performances and even a sort of electronic remix by Karlheinz Essl. The appeal for string chamber groups longing to share in Bach's riches is obvious, and for audiences it appears to be another case of Bach's music standing up to whatever you do to it. Like most other annotators, Hyperion's Nigel Simeone tries to claim that the arrangement is on a par with the numerous transcriptions Bach made of his own works. It is no such thing; the string chamber texture by its nature adds expressive devices that were not of Bach's world, and he would have found Sitkovetsky's version bizarre.
In a church in a quiet northern Italian town survives a hidden jewel: an organ dating from 1749 which is perfect for Bach’s music. In this recording, renowned Italian organist Luca Guglielmi presents a fine sequence of some of Bach’s finest keyboard works, played on the historic organ in the Chiesa di San Nicolao, Alice Castello. The programme is compiled from works by Bach collected by two eighteenth century scholars, Padre Martini and Friedrich Wilhelm Rust, which would surely have been performed in the famous Abbey of Montecassino, a magnet for musical travellers on ‘The Grand Tour’. Martini and Rust played a major role in the creation of the first collected edition of Bach’s works. Guglielmi’s neatly-structured programme includes the brilliant Fantasia Chromatica, the solemn Fuga sopra il Magnificat, the fine Fantasia pro Organo in C minor and the great Fantasia & Fuga pro Organo, as well as Preludes and Fantasias, Duetti from the Clavierübung and seven Chorales for the Catechism, all demonstrating the vivid colours of this remarkable instrument.