Even as period-instrument bands dominate baroque music performance today, many small chamber orchestras demonstrate that it is possible to give stylish, restrained, crisply articulated performances of baroque music on modern instruments. When I compare this rendition of the Bach Magnificat to a period-instrument, one-singer-to-a-part version with Andrew Parrot on Virgin, the latter comes off sounding like a parody of authentic performance practice (rushed tempos, pallid vibrato-less tone, ugly lunging swells on suspensions) while this Naxos version sounds like a model of good taste and fine music making - from orchestra and vocal soloists alike.
Hearing an album of Bach arias sung by a countertenor may not be essential for every listener. Many of the high arias from Bach's cantatas weren't the kind of operatic pieces that called for a muscular male voice comparable to those that have tackled Handel's arias in similar collections, and Bach, at least much of the time, wrote for female vocalists. If you enjoy countertenor singing, however, this release by Canadian singer Daniel Taylor may be the Bach album of choice.
Bach’s Goldberg Variations have played a central role in harpsichordist Pierre Hantai’s musical life since his early youth. At 28 he recorded the work for the Opus 111 label (now available on Naïve), a highly acclaimed release that stands among the work’s choice versions. Over the past 11 years Hantai evidently has rethought and refined his interpretation, as revealed in this 2003 remake. There’s greater rhythmic freedom and variety of articulation, plus a more subjective approach to ornaments and agogics, especially in the repeats (he observes all but those in Variation 15, 25, and the Aria Da Capo; the 1992 recording honors all repeats save for Variation 25). Variations previously characterized through Hantai’s seamless legato technique (Nos. 3, 6, 8, 11, 17, and 18, for example) are further enlivened by detaché finger strokes and more inflected phrasings. The latter infuse Variations 7, 10, and 16 with greater resilience and rhythmic verve than their earlier counterparts.