This cycle of preludes and fugues composed by Johann Sebastian Bach ranks tremendously high in the world of music. It is not just one of the immortal masterpieces of the world music literature; it is an encyclopedia of polyphonic art, a handbook for life, and an inexhaustible source of delight. Sviatoslav Richter said, Whenever I set to the Well-Tempered Clavier, I always get consumed with a desire not to exclude any of the sides for the sake of one narrow and dogmatic position. I am confident that Bach can be played in different ways, with different articulation and different dynamics, as long as the whole is preserved and the performance is convincing.
For those who already appreciate Rachel Podger's unique brand of magic I'll just say that this return to recorded Bach is lovely and all that one could hope for. All that one looks for is here, and there is more. For those who are not familiar with Rachel Podger, she is a unique voice among violinists. She has absorbed the principles of late Baroque performance practice and made them a part of herself, so that the articulation and inflection of that rhetorical approach to music flows from her as a natural idiom of expression.
This two-CD set is actually part of an ambitious undertaking: ESS.A.Y Recordings recorded these sonatas in two different versions, this one featuring Ms. Tenenbaum on a modern violin and accompanied by a modern piano played by Richard Kapp; the other recording (reviewed below) features Ms. Tenenbaum playing an older violin and accompanied by a harpsichord played by Gerald Ranck.
In many ways this is a special recording. It features first-desks from the Chicago Sym. playing two of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, and so far beyond the average Baroque ensemble are they that one yearns for the other four. Just to hear the amazing trumpet solos in Concerto no. 2 by the legendary Adolph Herseth repays the cost of the CD. But we also get James Levine doing double duty at the harpsichord in Concerto no. 5. One deficit from the rise of period performance is that non-specialists have been driven out. The days when an all-around musician like Levine or Leonard Bernstein performed Bach and Handel are more or less over, and their replacements, to be tactful, are not on such an exalted level of talent…. By Santa Fe Listener
Voces8 return to disc with this new recording of J.S.Bach’s Motets, BWV 225-230. Joined by the Senesino players, this young group prove their versatility and skill in performing some of Bach’s most challenging and engaging compositions.