With his 2017 release on Erato, Jean Rondeau illustrates the beginnings of the harpsichord concerto, which can be traced from the Baroque masterpieces of Johann Sebastian Bach through the early Classical period, represented here by works of his sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, and Johann Christian Bach. While this celebrated musical dynasty contributed to many forms in the 18th century, the keyboard concerto was given a special, innovative treatment by the Bachs, who effectively put the genre on the map.
There's nothing at all wrong with Maurizio Pollini's 2009 performance of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1. The Italian pianist's intellectual lucidity, interpretive clarity, and technical virtuosity are apparent in every prelude and fugue, and his probing insights and penetrating analysis inform every note. However, there is almost nothing right with the sound quality of the recording. The piano sounds too distant, making it hard to hear precisely what Pollini is doing, but oddly, the ambient sound is too present, making every extraneous noise too loud. One should not hear the pedals being pressed and lifted, much less the clatter of the hammers and the twanging of the strings above the sound of the music. Worse yet, one can hear what sounds like every breath Pollini takes nearly as loudly as every note he plays. These are all grievous flaws that should have been eliminated, and their presence fatally undermines the brilliance of Pollini's performances. A reengineered version of these performances would be most welcome, but the present recording is so flawed that it virtually destroys Pollini's playing.
Many people have accused the Maisky interpretation of the Bach Unaccompanied Cello Suites as "romanticized." I have just two words for Maisky's critics: "So What?". What truly matters is that Mischa Maisky is the most energetic and most original devotee of Bach. His version of the Bach Cello Suites is not only the best in the market today, but more importantly, demonstrates that music should be played by an artist, not for the sake of accuracy, but for the purpose of art and its resulting empathy which infuses the audience.
Only months after Deutsche Grammophon released Anne-Sophie Mutter's recording of Bach's violin concertos, Decca released Julia Fischer's recording of the same pieces. The similarities between the two discs run deeper than merely their shared repertoire. Both labels are branches of Universal Music Group and both violinists are individualistic German women, though Mutter is currently at the peak of her career while Fischer is just a bit past starting out. The differences, however, are likewise remarkable. The Deutsche Grammophon disc includes the world premiere of a new work by Sofia Gubaidulina dedicated to the violinist, while the Decca disc includes the more conventional coupling of Bach's Concerto for violin and oboe in C minor, BWV 1060.
Together with the Talich Quartet’s accounts on Calliope, these Mozart string quintets with Arthur Grumiaux and friends represent the best currently available choices. Since the Grumiaux version was released in 1973 it has remained a stalwart of the catalog, and was previously released as part of Philips’ grandiose Complete Mozart Edition in 1991 and later was included with other chamber works in a pair of Duos issued in 1997. The analog sound has held up well compared to current standards and is perfectly acceptable, placing the musicians in a natural, believable sound-stage.
The star of the young Hungarian violinist Kristóf Baráti is quickly rising. Having won several important international competitions (the most recent first prize at the prestigious Paganini Competition in Moscow) he plays with important orchestras and conductors, like Charles Dutoit, Kurt Masur, Iván Fischer, Yuri Temirkanov and Marek Janowski. His recent recording of Beethoven’s complete violin sonatas with Klára Würtz received rave reviews: “5 stars…a great duo, comparable with Perlman/Ashkenazy, Grumiaux/Haskil, Ferras/Barbizet’ (Diapason), “A talent that comes along once in a decade, perhaps once in a generation, I don’t say it lightly, but once you’ve heard Baráti and Würtz you’ll never listen to anyone else again” (Fanfare). This recording of the great solo Bach was issued on Berlin Classics in 2009, and shows the sovereign command over the matter, and a deep understanding of the spirit of these masterworks.
Admittedly my early experience of these works was formed by the great Arthur Grumiaux' modern instrument versions, not with the ( to my ears over-romantic ) Solistes Romandes, but an earlier (I think) more incisive performance with the English Chamber Orchestra, very hard to track down, which is wonderful…
By rc_rc (Yorkshire, UK)