Bach recommendations...

A reader asks where he should start with Bach if he's a Bach newbie? Any suggestions?

I'll start with... a couple:

St. Matthew Passion: Klemperer (follow in English translation)

Cantatas: Gardiner (choral)

Goldberg Variations: Gould (Gould is an acquired taste)

Cello Suites: Rostropovich (for those w/o FB account)

Orchestral Suites: Hogwood (cheerful)

Complete Organ Works: James Kibbie (free)

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.



Pittsburgh Symphony Brass, Bach: The Art of Fugue

I like to call this album "Bach for the end of the world," but you have to wait to the end of some of the tracks to understand what I mean. The sample clips online don't do the album justice.

This would also be a mans introduction to Bach.

Cantatas (BWV 4, 150, 196): Masaaki Suzuki dir. the Bach Collegium Japan.

Suzuki, a Japanese Christian, is in the process of recording all the Bach cantatas for the BIS label. They're all excellent. Suzuki speaks and writes eloquently about the deeply Christian nature of all of Bach's music, and its evangelistic ability.

St. Matthew Passion: David Willcocks, dir.; in English.

St. Matthew Passion: Leonard Bernstein, dir.; in English.

St. John Passion:  Jeannette Sorrell, dir.; in English.

There's nothing like hearing the St. Matthew and St. John Passions in English and following along.  Both the Willcocks and Bernstein recordings are very good.  So is Sorrell's St. John's, although it seems to have gone out of print and so is outrageously expensive right now. Maybe you can find a used copy. It's worth hunting down.

Mass in B Minor: Philippe Herreweghe, dir.

Bach Arrangements: Angela Hewitt.

The pianist Angela Hewitt does a particularly fine job with Bach. This is a collection of arrangements of music Bach originally composed for organ and other instruments.

The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Friedrich Gulda.

The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2: Friedrich Gulda.

Suites for Solo Cello:  János Starker.

Six Sonatas and Partitas: Paul Galbraith, guitar.

At some point, all pianists hope to play Bach's WTC, cellists the Suites, and violinists the Sonatas & Partitas. They're at the top of the repertoire heap. I like Gulda's and Starker's choices, but there are many other fine recordings, too. Galbraith's recording of the Sonatas & Partitas deserves special mention. He designed a special 8-stringed guitar which he holds like a cello to play transcribed forms of Bach’s music composed for violin. He plays cleanly and powerfully. And he has a convincing theory that Bach designed the Sonatas & Partitas as "an instrumental gospel story in triptych form telling of the Birth, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ." Do listen to it if you get a chance.

Some good recommendations.

I like the Furtwangler recoding of the St Matthew Passion but also the Willcocks version is good if you would like to hear the work in English which offers certain obvious advantages.

I like the old Casals recordings of the cello suites.

For organ works Rogg and Rubsam are enjoyable.

Cantata 21 "Ich hatte vie Bekummernis"  especially the last movement, a choral fugue that carries you staight up to Heaven.  My favorite, by far.

Also the motets and Brandenburg concerti

Jim LaGrand got it right with the Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzuki. You can't go wrong with them. If I were to own a complete set of the cantatas it would be their recordings.

My recommendations:

Bach Collegium Japan: (1) Volume 2 which has cantata 106 on it. It is a funeral cantata and among Bach's earliest cantatas. I just love the text. (2) St. John Passion, for which they also have a nice DVD. (3) The BCJ's Brandenburg concertos are amazing. Particularly, the first movement of #5 where the maestro himself (Suzuki) plays a mean harpsichord cadenza. 

Masaaki Suzuki's brother Hidemi also has a very nice recording of the cello suites. Pieter Wispelwey is good too.

Goldberg Variations with Christophe Rousset. 

More for the BCJ: other favorite cantatas are BWV 7, 12, and 78

Ok. I have to stop.

I second the opinion regarding Bach Collegium Japan.  They offer some of the best in the way of period-style recordings.

The Musical Offering (Neville Mariner and St. Martins in the Fields).  This collection of pieces has a unique history behind it involving Frederick the Great, and offers a variety of styles and instrumentation.

Flute sonatas (Joshua Smith and Jory Vinikour, or Barthold Kuijken for a period style).

Gardiner's St. John Passion...largely because of the great voice of Anthony Rolfe Johnson.

By no mean's a scholar's Bach but fascinating and fun are the Leonard Slatkin albums of orchestrations of Bach.  It's great to hear Bach's music rendered in the full modern orchestral palette- I particularly commend Arnold Schoenberg- yes, the 12-tone guy- his transcription of the St. Anne prelude and fugue in E Flat and Elgar's transcription of the Fantasia and Fugue in C Minor.

Then don't forget about the Stokowski recordings of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in d minor with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

I recommend Anner Bylsma's 1979 recording of the Cello Suites for an inspiring interpretation on a period instrument. He also recorded in 1993, but I prefer the earlier version.

and I also meant to second Mr. Gray's recommendation of the Casal's recording. 

German Brass Goes Bach.

The German Brass play Bach's music on DVD in the Cathedral where Bach is buried.

Awesome Brass Playing and it's on Amazon.

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