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.
Much of Bach’s organ music was written during the earlier part of his career, culminating in the period he spent as court organist at Weimar. Among many well-known compositions we may single out the Dorian Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 538, the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, BWV 564, Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542, Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582, Prelude and Fugue “St Anne”, BWV 552 (in which the fugue theme resembles the well-known English hymn of that name), Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, and the Toccata and Fugue in F, BWV 540. Chorale preludes are compositions for organ that consist of short variations on simple hymn tunes for all seasons of the church year. Better-known melodies used include the Christmas In dulci jubilo, BWV 608, Puer natus in Bethlehem, BWV 603, the Holy Week Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 625, and the Easter Christ ist erstanden, BWV 627, as well as the moving Durch Adam’s Fall ist ganz verderbt, BWV 637, and the familiar Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645, and Nun danket alle Gott, BWV 657.
This album was recorded live at London's Wigmore Hall in January 2012, and it would be interesting to know whether its release was planned ahead of time or motivated by ongoing affection for the performances. Brazilian cellist Antonio Meneses and Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires have often played as a duo, and the easy conversational quality they have achieved is fully evident here. But the beauty goes beyond the usual chamber music competences. Meneses is rightly renowned for his rich tone, which remains undamaged even in the upper reaches of the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata in A minor, a work written for a defunct six-stringed instrument somewhere between cello and guitar; it lies a bit high for the cello, but Meneses is untroubled by that. The real star of the show, though, may be Pires, who contributes some deeply mysterious Brahms Intermezzi and calibrates her role with astonishing precision in the duo works, emerging into full duet partnership in the final Brahms Cello Sonata in E minor, Op. 38. Beautiful and more, with a dark, melancholy strain unifying the whole, this is chamber music reminiscent of the golden age. Deutsche Grammophon's engineering team also deserves notice for the startling live presence, undiminished by intrusions of noise.
The legendary label, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, releases a special 50 CD boxset featuring star performers such as Hille Perl, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Dorothee Oberlinger, Simone Kermes, and Nuria Rial and more!
This collection displays the sheer variety available from theDHM archive. A perfect collection ranging through medieval, Renaissance, baroque and Romantic music.
This 1990 Digital Recording is a must for Bach's CD Collector. Recorded using historic organs on which some were played himself by Bach. Marie-Claire Alain's playing here is more in historic and faithful to performance practice. The tempos and the registrations are well planned and the approach of playing is spontaneous and simple. The spirituality of the performer is so evident here.
"…Preston's playing is lucid, alert, and incisive, and his choices of stops produce clear tones that make the counterpoint utterly transparent. If one listens to several discs in a row, Preston's consistently bright sonorities and mostly brisk tempos may seem a little predictable, but any perceived lack of variety is certainly compensated by his skill and thorough mastery of this massive body of work. These recordings present the organs in nearly ideal conditions, with superb sound quality in moderately resonant spaces and without the usual blemishes associated with church recordings, such as the noises of the instruments' mechanisms or random background distractions…" ~AMG
"It is…a fine pairing of two of Bach’s more extroverted works, in which Herreweghe delves beneath the masculine surface of the Magnificat to find its more tender interior and boldly explores Bach’s expansion of Luther’s great Reformation hymn, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. For whatever reason, Cantata 80 seems to have lost a degree of popularity lately, and it’s good to hear it again, complete with W. F. Bach’s interpolated trumpets."– George Chien