Johan Brouwer plays Bach, Bohm, Couperin and Forqueray (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96kHz | Time – 01:10:38 minutes | 1,63 GB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: highresaudio.com | © Aluid Records
Recorded: 2014

Bach and the French baroque :: The working title of the programme is Bach and the French baroque. L’art de toucher le clavecin by François Couperin (1668-1733) was published in 1716 as a manual for the French style and gives important instructions for playing the harpsichord as regards finger positions and ornamentations. The préludes are written-out improvisations in the style of the Préludes non mésurée.
The Suites of Georg Böhm (1661-1733) were produced in an environment orientated towards France, like the court in German Celle, where the French consort of Duke Georg Wilhelm resided. After her husband’s death, she lived for some years in Lüneburg, where Böhm worked in the Johannis-Kirche. Besides the usual dances, the Suite in F Minor played here contains for instance a French Ciaconne.

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Johann Sebastian Bach – Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of Fugue), BWV 1080 – Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin, Raphael Alpermann (2011)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44.1kHz | Time – 01:17:39 minutes | 774 MB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: prestoclassical.co.uk | © Harmonia Mundi
Recorded: October, 2009, Teldex Studio, Berlin

Bach’s unfinished Art of Fugue, published for still-debated reasons in open score, has been performed and recorded in dozens of different instrumental versions. But this one, by the veteran Akademie für alte Musik, founded in the former East Berlin, is unique; few others have differentiated the fugues by instrumental forces deployed, and perhaps in none has the overall effect been quite so kaleidoscopic as this one. The rationale for this remains a bit uncertain after perusal of the booklet notes (in German and English); the group members write that, as with other instrumental versions, they aim to “achieve transparent and legible textures,” but their “real motivation in tackling the work was the pleasure of plunging together into the structures, harmonic language, and chromatic content of this music, in which an ensemble can make extraordinary discoveries through musical and instrumental confrontations.” The Akademie für alte Musik is not a historical instrument group, and there are no claims of any kind for authentic performance. Instead there is a shifting set of forces with a few recurring groups or individual players: a string quartet, a solo keyboardist, small wind groups, various pairs of strings in the canons, and tuttis including the entire ensemble of strings, three oboes in different ranges, bassoon, trombone, and keyboard (either harpsichord or organ). The shifts in instrumentation do not correspond to the work’s broad sections (simple fugues, fugues in augmentation, double and triple fugues, and the awesomely complex mirror fugues), and it’s hard to find a pattern of any kind. The motivation is murky, but the effect is pleasing if the listener approaches the music in the same sort of freewheeling spirit that the performers seem to have; the incredible concentration demanded by the Art of Fugue, which may or may not have been intended as a work to be performed from start to finish, is replaced by a light sense of anticipation that is extrinsic to the work but not fundamentally alien to it. This is the kind of recording for which sampling will reliably place the potential buyer into the pro or anti group. The sound engineering, a product of Berlin’s Teldex Studio, is a major strong point.

Review by James Manheim

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Johann Sebastian Bach – Imagine – Jean Rondeau (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96kHz | Time – 01:24:28 minutes | 1,65 GB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | © Erato/Warner Classics
Recorded: Notre-Dame du Bon Secours, Paris. 2 – 6. VI. 2014

IMAGINE is the first Warner Classics release from the dynamic young French harpsichordist Jean Rondeau, who sees it as “an exploration of all the possibilities that lie in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and in the harpsichord”. Praised by radio station France Musique for his “maturity, fabulous touch and originality,” the multi-talented Rondeau feels that, as a young musician today, he has “an incredible opportunity to break out of the concert hall and meet the world”.
IMAGINE features one of Bach’s most celebrated harpsichord works, the Italian Concerto BWV 971, but it mainly comprises transcriptions of music that the composer conceived for other instruments: the violin, the lute and the flute, including the towering Chaconne in D Minor. “This isn’t a disc of transcriptions, though,” says Rondeau. “As its name suggests, it is about imagination – an exploration of all the possibilities that lie in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and in the harpsichord. And though it’s not making a direct link to John Lennon, it’s nice if the title of the CD calls him to mind.”

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