It must have been daunting for J.S Bach’s musical sons to work with his huge shadow. The fact that four of his children succeeded in becoming important and influential composers is both remarkable and proof of how extraordinary these men were. C.P.E and J.C Bach are perhaps the most famous of them, and of the other two, J.C.F and W.F, it is Wilhelm Friedemann (1710-84) who perhaps came closest to his father as a composer.
Between 1999 and 2006, the legendary baroque music specialist Ton Koopman brought together a stunning array of singers to record the complete cantatas of J.S. Bach alongside his own Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir. Released originally mostly in 3-CD sets, this wonderful cycle is available in its entirety. The 67 separate CDs have now been gathered together in a box with a booklet that includes a complete tracklisting and information about each recording.
Youngest son of J.S. Bach, Johann Christian Bach rose to prominence in England during the early Classical period much the same as his father dominated the German Baroque. His writing was influenced by his father, of course, but also by the fashions being explored by Haydn. J.C. Bach also served as a bridge to Mozart, whose work and early writings were also influenced by the junior Bach. A total of 15, three-movement symphonies were published under Opp. 6, 9, and 18.
For those that prefer to hear these works on piano rather than harpsichord, you can hardly find more enjoyable, illuminating, and elegant performances than these. Andras Schiff has surely become one of the most prominent proponents of J.S. Bach on the piano and its hard to believe these particular discs were ever allowed to slip from commercial availability. Their re-issue here is reason to rejoice. It is with good reason that another chapter in the career of Andras Schiff has started recently with his new series of Beethoven Sonatas on ECM, and of course more Bach. He is a true master, and the Bach Concerto recordings with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, led by Schiff himself, exemplify this and count as essential listening.
No more than a handful of pieces represent the entire musical heritage for baroque lute by Johann Sebastian Bach – not a lot when we consider the enormity of the composer’s total output. Although it is not known whether Bach himself played the instrument, the seven works which are ascribable to it continue to enjoy extraordinary attention on the part of musicians due to their exceptional quality, and indeed the majority originate from the areas of Germany that were home to the lute’s greatest exponents – musicians who we can be almost certain the composer came into contact with. This recording thus presents four compositions in suite form and three pieces of a different nature, all belonging to the florid repertoire of the courtly Salonmusik that was in vogue among the German upper classes at the time. Performing them is acclaimed Italian lutenist Mario D’Agosto, whose changes in tonality aim to better serve the capacities of the instrument and whose embellishments are testament to the high level of ornamentation which played such an intrinsic role in baroque performance practice.
Masaaki Suzuki is a Japanese organist, harpsichordist and conductor, and the founder and musical director of the Bach Collegium Japan. He also teaches and conducts at Yale University and has conducted orchestras and choruses around the world. He was born in Kobe to parents who were both Christians and amateur musicians; his father had worked professionally as a pianist. Masaaki Suzuki began playing organ professionally at church services at the age of 12.