Classical Bach Fans

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Pete Gia, Nov 24, 2002.

  1. Pete Gia

    Pete Gia Stunt Coordinator

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    The only classical I have at this time is "Switched on Bach" O.K. you can laugh now. His music is pretty cool,with all the counterpoint. However,this CD sounds bright,tinny and cheesy. Can anyone recommend a good sounding CD,with tunes such as Prelude&Fugue#2,done with strings perhaps? Thanks,Pete
     
  2. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    One of my favorite recordings his his violin sonatas and partitas performed on guitar by Paul Galbraith. It's a two disc set.
     
  3. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    A favorite vinyl collection of mine is the complete set of the Brandenburg concerti performed by the New Philharmonia Orchestra under the direction of the late Otto Klemperer on EMI. Multimiked, but the sound is reasonably good. The performances are heavenly.
     
  4. DonaldB

    DonaldB Supporting Actor

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    These are some of the Bach string recordings that have impressed me the most:

    Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin - Nathan Milstein
    Solo & Double Violin Concertos - Andrew Manze, The Academy of Ancient Music
    Solo Cello Suites - Pierre Fournier

    And here are a couple of noteworthy piano pieces:

    The Goldberg Variations - Murray Perahia
    Toccata in C Minor; Partita No. 2 in C Minor; English Suite No. 2 in A Minor - Martha Argerich
     
  5. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    I have always been partial to Neville Marriner (Academy of St. Martin in the Fields). Which produce nice interpretations of my favorite accessible Bach.
    The Orchestral Suites.
    I also own Menuhin/Bath interpretation, which I have been beat down being told that it is superior to the Marriner.
    This is neither here nor there though, since my absolute favorite is the Harmonia Mundi France/Akademie fur alte Musik interpretations. Which is less a conductor and boasts "original" instruments. A surprisingly warm performance, which I know hardly anything about except the above and that I like it very much.
     
  6. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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  7. DonaldB

    DonaldB Supporting Actor

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    Gould actually recorded the Variations on two occasions, once in the '50s and again in the '80s. Neither attempt is as effortlessly nuanced or as moving as Perahia's, but they're both well worth having.
     
  8. Terry St

    Terry St Second Unit

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    1955 and 1981. Sony has released the two recordings together in a three disc set. The third CD is a commentary which might interest you if you are *really* serious about your Glenn Gould.

    An organ disc that I have liked a fair bit lately is "J.S. Bach, Great Organ Works" performed by Gustav Leonhardt from Sony Classical. This two disc set includes Toccata & Fugue in D Minor which even your most oblivious friends will recognize in the first few measures.

    If you're looking for strings too, I strongly suggest getting some of Bach's cello solos. "Bach 6 Cello Suites BMV 1007-1012" performed by Jaap ter Linden from Harmonia Mundi has been in my player a fair bit recently.
     
  9. andrew markworthy

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    Aaaaargh! I wrote a long reply to this this morning and then wiped it instead of sending it (just don't ask ...). Let's try again ...

    My intro to Bach was Switched on Bach as well (along with playing some of the easier preludes and fugues for piano practice).

    There's nothing necessarily 'wrong' with Bach on a synthesiser. Bach wrote a lot of his keyboard works for 'keyboards' - i.e. he wasn't bothered about it being harpsichord, organ, or whatever. The synthesiser can give some very clear sounds, and I think Bach would have loved *some* of the stuff on Walter/Wendy Carlos's albums.

    If you want to get into Bach, it'd be a good idea to try to amass the pieces played on Switched on Bach, which effectively consistute his 'greatest hits' (excluding his choral works).

    Keyboard music: the essential pieces to hear are the Goldberg Variations, the 2- and 3-part inventions, and the 48 Preludes and Fugues. The Goldberg Variations were (supposedly) written for a harpsichord player to play to a nobleman by the name of Goldberg who suffered from insomnia. They are a set of variations based on a simple but very charming tune, and are probably the pinnacle of keyboard composition for that era. The pieces are typically played on either harpsichord (the originally intended instrument) or piano. I would strongly recommend you listen to both before deciding on your preference. I personally prefer it played on the piano (simply because it has a clearer texture). My personal favourite is Andras Schiff's recording made in the 1980s, but there is a good case for Perahia's version as well. Some people swear by Glenn Gould but even his supporters would admit that he divides opinion strongly. I personally find his interpretations too idiosyncratic and I cannot abide his habit of humming or even singing along with the music. Others find him the last word in musical genius. It's a case of sample before buying. The 2- and 3-part inventions (which give some of the best stuff on the Switched-On Bach album IMHO) are so-called because each piece is in effect composed of 2 or 3 different tunes intermingled together. I'd recommend Andras Schiff, but there are other good interpreters. The '48 Preludes and Fugues' are in fact two collections of 24 preludes and fugues, with one prelude and fugue in each key (this is connected with musical theories of pitch and temprament of keys, which is all interesting stuff, but you don't need to know anything about it to enjoy the music). Again, you have the choice of harpsichord, piano or (I think) organ. I like the Schiff piano version, but there are good alternatives. Beyond this you have quite a lot of other keyboard music, but start with the Goldberg and the 48.

    Orchestral music: the big decision is 'period of modern?' Basically, the instruments Bach knew are not the same as today's and sound different. In addition, instruments were played using different techniques then and now and orchestras differed in size (today's are far larger). Period instrument Bach tends to sound a bit 'screechy' but nimble and pliant; modern Bach is much smoother, but also rather more ponderous. Again, there's no right or wrong preference, but I'd strongly recommend you try both. the first pieces to try should be the Brandenburg Concertos (there are six of them for different combinations of instruments). You should also try the violin concertos (especially the concerto for two violins). There are *lots* of good versions of both pieces.

    Solo music: other than stuff for harpsichord/piano, there is lots of stuff. I agree with Terry that the solo cello pieces are great, but with respect I suggest you listen to some of the more 'mainstream' Bach first. the 6 suites for solo cello are superb, as are the pieces for solo violin.

    Organ music: again, a choice has to be made between modern and period. Modern organs tend to be far more powerful and rich-sounding, but are also rather 'bloated' for much of Bach unless sensitively played (organists have a huge range of choices on how to play pieces, because organs can be selected to play different sounds rather like synthesisers). Organs of the period Bach knew are rather more numble but at times a little weaker sounding (though not all that weak - they'll still push a good hi-fi system to its limits). My advice is to try a collection of Bach organ pieces and if you like it, go the whole hog and buy the complete organ works (circa 60 pounds in the UK). This may sound pricey, but if you buy individual albums, you may find that there is a lot of duplication between CDs.

    Choral works: a lot of people think these are the best thing Bach did. I've got to confess I'm not hugely keen on them (I prefer Handel), but they are good. The pieces you must hear are: St John Passion, St Matthew Passion, Christmas Oratorio, Mass in B Minor. I'd advise you to find DVDs of these. The reason is that to get the best out of these pieces you need to follow the libretto (i.e. lyrics) and unless you really do want to spend 3 hours (each of the above pieces is very long)reading tiny print in a CD insert, get the DVD so you can see lyrics on the screen. I don't know what DVDs are available, but regarding CDs, a friend of mine who is a Bach nut strongly recommends the versions conducted by John Elior Gardiner.
    On top of this, there are a 100 or more cantatas (choral works for different church services, plus some secular cantatas too) each weighing in at 20 minutes plus. Oh yes, and once more, you have a choice of period of modern instrument performances.

    Hope this info is of use.
     
  10. Agee Bassett

    Agee Bassett Supporting Actor

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    I've always found the Camerata Romana very friendly interpreters of Bach's chamber string works for the modern listener. Unfortunately, it seems many of the budget Reference Gold compilations, which were an excellent starting point for novice enthusiasts, are OOP. Several of their recordings for different labels are still available, however, and I would highly recommend you give them a listen.
    andrew also provides a wealth of excellent recommendations. [​IMG]
     
  11. Peter_A_M

    Peter_A_M Stunt Coordinator

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    What's the consensus on Bach's organ works? Are there any one or two performers that stand out above the rest? I bought Peter Hurford's "Grosse Orgelwerke" a few months ago to hear Toccatta and Fugue in D Minor and Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor and was wholly disappointed both by Hurford's interpretation of the classics and by his choice of organs. There's no sense of dynamics, delicacy, or subtlety - everything comes at you all at once and it's all for the worse.

    I don't know if anyone is familiar with Hurford, but does anyone have an idea if there's an anti-Hurford around? I've heard random mp3s that sound much better, but I can never find the original albums.
     
  12. andrew markworthy

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    Peter - I'm no expert on organ playing, but I believe that Hurford is considered by those in the know to be one of the best. Perhaps it was just that particular recording?

    I think it's worth pointing out that if you've only heard Bach played on Victorian organs with (almost literally) all the stops pulled out, hearing the stuff played on contemporary instruments and in the style Bach would have known (whcih generally means with a lot more ornamentation improvised by the performer), it can be quite a shock.
     
  13. Peter_A_M

    Peter_A_M Stunt Coordinator

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    Andrew,

    Perhaps. It's a two CD set on which he plays about 3 or 4 different organs, but I don't agree with his choices on the selections I want to hear. I'm not an organist, but I have spent enough time in music to know when something sounds good to me or not. I guess I'll have to randomly buy CDs to find one I like.

    Wasn't Tocatta and Fugue one long Bach improvisation? I think I heard something to that effect. I do prefer that the performer take liberties with the material rather than strictly adhere to the original music. It allows for more flexibility and, on the whole, a more spontaneous and enjoying listening experience.

    But thanks for the reply. I think I'll do a bit more research on Bach's organ music to avoid losing the hundred or so dollars I ordinarily would spend in search of the "perfect" recording.
     
  14. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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  15. Jack Keck

    Jack Keck Second Unit

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    You will have to decide for yourself whether you prefer Bach's orchestral works performed on period instrument or on modern ones. I've always gone fr the period instruments, but as Andrw Markworthy correcly pointedout, there is no right or wrong in this.

    What I recomend is to try to find budget versions of both styles, borrow what you can from your local library, or, if you own a turntable, look for different radings on used vinyl. This can allow you to determin what you preferon the cheap.

    Regarding Perer AM's question about the Tcata & Fugue, I heard a music professor state quite emphatically that Bach and Beethoven both improvised to a lare extent and could "sinng" as well as any jazz musician today. Bach tuned organs once they were installed. Once he got them tuned, the town ws treated to his improvisations.

    I think Bach would have lovd the synthesizers if he were here today.
     
  16. andrew markworthy

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    Peter, sorry, my previous message was rattled off and I don't think it came out right. I think it's a case of horses for courses, and there are plenty of others besides Hurford to choose from.

    If memory serves me correctly, there's quite a debate about the toccata and fugue - some folks say it was originally a violin piece later transcribed for organ, that it's not really by Bach, etc.

    Perfectly true that Bach and Beethoven (and indeed many of the other great composers who were also decent keyboard players) could improvise. Indeed, Bach required students to improvise a set of variations on the spot to a simple tune he'd give them.
     
  17. John Styrnol

    John Styrnol Agent

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    I think you should get the Penguin Guide to Compact Discs. It will have everything you need to know about Classical Music. Also, listen to your local Classical Radio Station to checkout the piece you would like to hear.
     
  18. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    John's got the right reference, the Penguin Guide is the best reference although it isn't perfect. The only problem is that it only covers certain disks in release, not all disks. Never throw out old versions because they complement one another. For example, an old copy of PG may give a review of XX performance on a full-price disk. The current version of PG may not discuss XX because the full-price disk has been dropped. But the XX performance may have been re-released to budget disk subsequent to the publication date of the current PG. PG was publishing annual "yearbooks" that were supposed to update major revisions to the PG. However I haven't seen one lately.
     
  19. Seth_S

    Seth_S Second Unit

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    When it comes to Bach, easily the greatest living conductor of his music (if not the greatest of this century) is John Eliot Gardiner. His Monteverdi Choir is simply the best choir in the world (about now Karl Richter are gasping for breath).

    Highlights of Gardiner's Bach:

    Cantatas BWV 140 & 147 (Archiv)
    Magnificat (Philips)
    Mass in B Minor (Archiv)
    St. Matthew Passion (Archiv)
    Christmas Oratorio (Archiv)
    St. John Passion (Archiv)
     
  20. Pete Gia

    Pete Gia Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Everyone. Just got my computer out of the shop, and would now like to say that I sure appreciate all the responses,and will be looking into many of the suggestions! Best Regards,Pete
     

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