During the final years of his life, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) created the monumental body of music that can be considered his “Testament”, comprising the Musical Offering, the Art of Fugue and the B minor Mass. This latter work is a perfect synthesis of all his skill and flair in the art of composition (and essentially in that of counterpoint), as well as his gift for invention and his extraordinary sense of form, structure and number.
If he were so minded, Jordi Savall might hand copies of this CD out to new acquaintances as the musical equivalent of a calling-card. True, he appears here only in the guise of soloist, whereas a more complete portrait would need to include samples of his work as director and conductor; but as an illustration of the range of the viola da gamba, this generously filled disc is exemplary. And although the calling-card might not be handmade, it is the nearest thing to it, since Alia Vox is Savall’s own, newly established label.
The music of Bach's 'St. John Passion', which the composer wrote for Holy Week in 1724 immediately after his appointment as cantor of St Thomas's Church in Leipzig, still retains all its freshness and vitality nearly 300 years later, and is a true Baroque delight. The two main choruses Herr, unser Herrscher and Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine form the beginning and culmination of a large-scale orchestral and vocal structure in which Bach reveals his absolute mastery of polyphony. Inwardly reflective chorales are as much interwoven into the events of the Passion as the haunting arias which comment on the biblical texts of the Gospel of St John. Throughout this solemn Passion oratorio, there is a constant emphasis on Baroque musical magnificence. What makes this live recording of the concert version of March 7, 2015 in the Herkulessaal of the Munich Residenz so special? The fresh voices of the young and excellent vocal soloists, the regularly praised "astonishing three-dimensionality" and "crystalline clarity" of the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks under the direction of Peter Dijkstra and, of course, the renowned period instrument ensemble Concerto Köln.
Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett has recorded Bach before, on both piano and harpsichord. His interpretations are not jazz versions of Bach but are played straight. In this case you might say relatively straight, for Bach's sonatas for violin and keyboard, BWV 1014-1019, were written for a harpsichord and are generally played that way; somehow the ear is jarred more by the piano here than in Bach's solo keyboard music (which Jarrett has also recorded). Jarrett fans will find the evidence of his characteristic style not in rhythmic inflections toward jazz but in his way of sustaining notes, which is never excessive.
"Bach is immortal," writes Isang Enders in the foreword to his new CD of the six Suites for solo cello. "They say that Bach is the beginning and the end of all things, immortal, incomprehensible and even holy." Given this enormous challenge, no musician can be blamed for being plagued by doubts when approaching works of such calibre. And yet: "Bach's music is so human and thus always contemporary and pure. The suites should speak, they should sing and dance, hunt and contemplate – altogether subjectively and characteristically, now that I have overcome my doubts. The subjective aspect of this recording is the result of my firm conviction." These are the words of a young cellist, a high‐flyer, who led the cello section at the Dresden Staatskapelle when he was only twenty, then gave it up for a solo career. That is really all we need say; it is what marks out the Bach playing of Isang Enders from all the competing interpretations. Youthful vigour, consummate technique and a deep understanding of the works make for a perfect combination of head, heart and soul.
It is no surprise that Bach featured prominently among her first records. The G major French Suite, in particular, was one of her specialties, and she often programmed a number of preludes and fugues from the WTC. Scarlatti was another composer admired by Hess, and her recording of the two sonatas vividly display her clarity of articulation and sensitivity of touch. Of particular interest among the American Columbia recordings are the works by 20th century composers. … the selections she recorded reveal her to be a superb colorist. ,,,, Perhaps most fascinating is the inclusion of De Falla's showy Ritual Fire Dance, although atypical of her preferred repertoire she carries it off with stylish aplomb."By Wayne Kiley
The organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach stands as a singular monument both in the history of music for this instrument and in the career of Helmut Walcha. This excellent organist recorded all of Bach’s organ music (much of it several times), as well as most of his keyboard music on harpsichord. Walcha lost his sight at an early age, and played music only through memory, helped by his mother and, later, his wife, who played the music on piano, one voice at a time. He later put the voices together, and developed a deeply unique appreciation of the texture of music.