This 55-CD set chronicles the remarkable Archiv label, begun in 1947. Devoted mainly to early and Baroque music, the recordings presented here, in facsimiles of their original sleeves (a nice touch), cover the period from Gregorian chant to Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth symphonies, played on period instruments. There are stops in between for a great deal of Bach, music of the Gothic era, the French Baroque (Mouret, Delalande, Rameau, etc), Gibbons, Handel (Alcina, La Resurrezione, Messiah, Italian cantatas), Telemann, Zelenka, Gabrieli, Desprez, Haydn, LeJeune, and plenty of the usual, as well as unusual, suspects. There’s also a final CD with selections of new releases (more Handel, Cavalli, Gesualdo, Vivaldi).
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.
Blandine Verlet, the noted French harpsichordist, studied with Ruggiero Gerlin and Ralph Kirkpatrick. She began recording in the late 1970s for Philips, switching to the Astree label in the 1990s. Her recordings range from J.S. Bach's keyboard works to Froberger to lesser known composers such as Louis Couperin and Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre. This, her second recording of the Goldbergs, has been called "one of the finest harpsichord versions in the catalogue.
Recorded in 1987, this disc by Belgian conductor Philippe Herreweghe and the choral-instrumental ensemble La Chapelle Royale came in advance of most of the historical-performance recordings that have delved deeply into Bach's cantatas and their world. It was, in fact, the first digital recording of the Trauerode, BWV 198. Despite some competition, this remains an exemplary Bach performance, and it was a superb candidate for reissue in Harmonia Mundi's HM Gold greatest-hits series.