Banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck has certainly broken more boundaries than any other picker in recent memory, from his early days performing bluegrass-inspired folk compositions on Rounder in the late '70s to his quirky jazz freak-outs with the Flecktones throughout the '90s. In late 2001, this peculiar innovator released an album of banjo interpretations of classical works by Bach, Chopin, and Scarlatti. Before classical purists roll their eyes, they must remember that the banjo hasn't always been seen as the instrument of choice of backwoods musicians in the Appalachian mountains, but as recently as the 1940s was used as a primary rhythm instrument in all manner of parlor music.
This 50 CD Box Set includes Archiv Produktions finest analogue recordings made between 1959 and 1981, representing a Golden Age of a pioneering label that defined the way early music should be performed and recorded. Featured artists include Karl Richter, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Pierre Fournier, John Eliot Gardiner, Trevor Pinnock and other icons of the Archiv label. The collection also includes a 150-page booklet with tracklists, rare photos and a new note by David Butchart.
These recordings reflect how Arrau’s textually scrupulous yet highly personal mastery of many styles had matured and ripened, while retaining the fire and ardency of his youth. Arrau’s Mozart, Weber and Chopin probe beyond the music’s surface charm, as do the luminous and full-bodied Spanish and French Impressionist selections. Cumulative momentum and thoughtful detail characterize Arrau’s Beethoven and Schumann while the extraordinary technical finish of his Liszt transcends mere virtuosity and bravura.
This is a superb recording of the Two-Part and Sinfonias (Three-Part Inventions) of Johann Sebastian Bach. Kenneth Gilbert is a wonderful interpreter of Bach's keyboard music and in this recording plays an instrument made in 1671 by Jan Couchet that was subsequently enlarged in 1778. The Two-Part Inventions and Sinfonias consist of 15 parts; they were written as technical exercises and as composition demonstration pieces originally for his son Wilhelm Friedemann. The various pieces were probably written separately and were gathered together by Bach in major/minor key sequence and published in 1723. The recording is clear and well balanced. Kenneth Gilbert plays beautifully; the music is lively without being ostentatious.
This 20-disc box set has been entertaining me for several months. Dutch pianist Ivo Janssen set up his own record label to distribute his 1997 Goldberg Variations, recorded on the hoof over two days in Haarlem. Its success prompted him to tackle Bach’s complete keyboard output. And there’s a sense of fly-by-night impetuosity about some of these performances, all taped in the same venue with the same producer, the cycle finally finished in 2009.