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paul secor

Bach Recommendations

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hmmmm-- wasn't Bylsma I (from RCA/Seon) reissued in the Sony SEON reissue series or am I Confucius? In any case Bylsma I >>>> Bylsma II.

Also, for the Bach keyboard: ** any ** Andreas Staier.

Also, for Bach (family) vocal: ** any ** cond. by Konrad Junghanel, though he's a little more gentle than you might expect.

Also, for Bach listeners who read English,

Durr/Jones Cantatas of J.S. Bach

Chafe Analyzing Bach Cantatas

I will speak on historical-- as opposed to 'historically informed'-- recordings of the Art of Fugue in the next lecture.

I strongly second the recommendation of Bylsma (the earlier of his two recordings, reissued on Sony Essential Classics) for the cello suites. Didn't mention it earlier b/c the OP said he was "in OK shape there".

Anner Bijlsma's Sony recordings are the later ones, they were made in 1992. His first set was released by RCA/Seon in 1979.

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hmmmm-- wasn't Bylsma I (from RCA/Seon) reissued in the Sony SEON reissue series or am I Confucius?

Bijlsma's 1992 recordings were released on Sony Vivarte S2K 48047. His earlier RCA/Seon set was recorded in 1976 (not 1979 as I said earlier) and reissued on RCA RD 70950. The RCA/Seon recordings have been reissued on CD again on Seon in 2001.

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The Joshua Rifkin cantatas swing a lot more than Harnoncourt's, IMO.

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Why do some people here prefer the earlier solo cello suites (RCA/Seon, 1970s) by Anner Bijlsma to his later set (Sony, 1992)? I've not heard either (I have the Pablo Casals, Pierre Fournier, Jaap ter Linden and Pieter Wispelwey sets), but I've read a few reviews and the majority prefer the more recent set. The earlier set was described as having a more academic interpretation and a sometimes "severe", "wooden" or even "sour" tone, while Bijlsma was said to have a better instrument, a freer interpretation and a more natural tone, and to play better on the later set.

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The Art of the Fugue, ensemble version performed by Solists of Berliner Bach Akademie (with vibraphone and organ!), Herbert Breuer conducting, - listened today for nth time, and I feel I can't appreciate it. The music is intricate and clever, but sounds mathematical and mechanical to an extreme, cold and devoid of any emotion. Quite boring, frankly. Could it be the performance / interpretation? Any thoughts, perhaps recommendations of other performances?

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A lot to agree with in previous posts, but here's some more.

Can I add a vote for Samuil Feinberg, both the transcription disc listed above, but also his WTC which is very special indeed. He's one of those remarkable Soviet-era pianists whose career was almost entirely under the radar in the West (add Sofronitsky and Yudina to this list, although not particularly for Bach).

Dinu Lipatti's Bach is both pianistically extraordinary and musically sublime, but sadly he recorded very little of it. There's the B flat Partita (both the studio version and the Besancon concert recording; his last performance, and almost unbearably poignant in the circumstances), and four short transcriptions (2 Bach-Busoni chorale preludes, the Bach-Hess Jesu joy of man's desire and the Bach-Kempf Siciliana). All wonderful and all easily available. There's also an air-check of the D minor concerto, but that's all.

A few other miscellaneous suggestions from the first part of the century.

Edwin Fischer's F minor concerto: in the slow movement he makes the instrument sing like no one else.

Don't miss Adolf Busch's wonderful 1930's Brandenburgs, with some of the greatest musicians of the period(Aubrey Brain, horn; Evelyn Rothwell/Barbirolli, oboe; Marcel Moyse,flute; and a young Rudolph Serkin in the fifth). Although in some ways, very much of its time, this is timeless music making!

George Enescu's unaccompanied sonatas and partitas; recorded late in his career, with some obvious technical weaknesses, but like his fellow Romanian Lipatti, sublime.

Modern, period instrument performances: may I second Rachel Podger's unaccompanied Bach, her concerti with Brecon Baroque and the sonatas with Trevor Pinnock. Great chops, and wonderfully lively, characterful performances.

Lots else, and I'll try to post again...

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Dinu Lipatti's Bach is both pianistically extraordinary and musically sublime, but sadly he recorded very little of it. There's the B flat Partita (both the studio version and the Besancon concert recording; his last performance, and almost unbearably poignant in the circumstances), and four short transcriptions (2 Bach-Busoni chorale preludes, the Bach-Hess Jesu joy of man's desire and the Bach-Kempf Siciliana). All wonderful and all easily available. There's also an air-check of the D minor concerto, but that's all.

Any particular recommendation for available editions of the Besancon recital? There are new Naxos and Opus Kura editions (I am not considering the 90s EMI).

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My wife and I love Bach and we have a great many albums. My favorite is Murray Perahia's recording of the Goldberg Variations. I find a emotional content in his version which I do not find in even other famous pianist's recordings.

51QNvf8JOZL._SL500_AA280_.jpg

We have many different recordings of the Brandenburg Concertos, and my favorite by far is the version by the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Phillip Ledger. This would come in 2 CDs. I will show the cover artwork for one of the CDs. The other CD has similar artwork.

71XAHeCvK0L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

These 3 CDs are among my favorite music, by anyone, in any genre.

Edited by Hot Ptah

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Re: Besancon Recital (and yes I'll figure out how to copy and paste from previous posts sometime soon!); I'm ashamed to say that I can't remember which version I have at home; in fact it's probably the 90s EMI. I notice that the Naxos is remastered by Mark Obert-Thorn, and I've usually found his work to be pretty good. I don't know the Kura label, but someone earlier in this thread praised their Casals cellos suites highly, so that might be a good option. I must admit that I'm not the best person to give audiophile recommendations, so caveat emptor! I should add that APR's Lipatti reissues (although they haven't done the Besancon recital that I know of) sound very good to my ears.

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Re: Besancon Recital (and yes I'll figure out how to copy and paste from previous posts sometime soon!); I'm ashamed to say that I can't remember which version I have at home; in fact it's probably the 90s EMI. I notice that the Naxos is remastered by Mark Obert-Thorn, and I've usually found his work to be pretty good. I don't know the Kura label, but someone earlier in this thread praised their Casals cellos suites highly, so that might be a good option. I must admit that I'm not the best person to give audiophile recommendations, so caveat emptor! I should add that APR's Lipatti reissues (although they haven't done the Besancon recital that I know of) sound very good to my ears.

I'll go for the Naxos one, I guess - it's cheap. Will report here on the quality.

To quote the post press "Reply" under the post you'd like to quote :).

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My wife and I love Bach and we have a great many albums. My favorite is Murray Perahia's recording of the Goldberg Variations. I find a emotional content in his version which I do not find in even other famous pianist's recordings.

51QNvf8JOZL._SL500_AA280_.jpg

Have you heard Gould's versions of Goldberg's? Perrahia's recordings was my first exposure to Goldberg's, and I liked them, but once I heard Gould '55 (and subsequently, any other "major" version of Goldberg's), I grew to regard Perrahia as a pretty but shallow salon version, Goldber's-lite, if you will (IMHO, of course). Edited by Д.Д.

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My wife and I love Bach and we have a great many albums. My favorite is Murray Perahia's recording of the Goldberg Variations. I find a emotional content in his version which I do not find in even other famous pianist's recordings.

51QNvf8JOZL._SL500_AA280_.jpg

Have you heard Gould's versions of Goldberg's? Perrahia's recordings was my first exposure to Goldberg's, and I liked them, but once I heard Gould '55 (and subsequently, any other "major" version of Goldberg's), I grew to regard Perrahia as a pretty but shallow salon version, Goldber's-lite, if you will (IMHO, of course).

I tend to agree with you, Д.Д.

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My wife and I love Bach and we have a great many albums. My favorite is Murray Perahia's recording of the Goldberg Variations. I find a emotional content in his version which I do not find in even other famous pianist's recordings.

51QNvf8JOZL._SL500_AA280_.jpg

Have you heard Gould's versions of Goldberg's? Perrahia's recordings was my first exposure to Goldberg's, and I liked them, but once I heard Gould '55 (and subsequently, any other "major" version of Goldberg's), I grew to regard Perrahia as a pretty but shallow salon version, Goldber's-lite, if you will (IMHO, of course).

I respectfully disagree. Gould's version does little for me, and I find Perahia's to be much more full of substance and depth. To each their own.

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Have you heard Gould's versions of Goldberg's? Perrahia's recordings was my first exposure to Goldberg's, and I liked them, but once I heard Gould '55 (and subsequently, any other "major" version of Goldberg's), I grew to regard Perrahia as a pretty but shallow salon version, Goldber's-lite, if you will (IMHO, of course).

I respectfully disagree. Gould's version does little for me, and I find Perahia's to be much more full of substance and depth. To each their own.

How are qualities/deficiencies like 'depth', 'shallowness', 'substance' calibrated?

These terms seem to get bandied around without any substantiating evidence.

I've been enjoying some of Angela Hewitt's recordings recently. I'm far from a Bach expert - he's not even at the centre of my listening world - so am in absolutely no position to make judgements. All I can say is they engage me. But I'm amused reading reviews which are generally positive or even highly positive and then you'll suddenly come across a 'merely scrapes the surface' type criticism. Is there anything more going on here than people expressing their enjoyment/lack of enjoyment and then reading qualities/deficiencies onto the performance?

At my most cynical I might even suspect there is a huge marketing ploy at work here - the industry encouraging us to believe that there are all these huge differences between recordings so we go out and buy lots of different versions, keeping the classical music industry in business (it must work...look at how the bulk of classical music releases are of already recorded, and often many times over recorded, music).

I'm not suggesting all performances are the same or of equal accuracy or expressiveness. I very much enjoy reading reviews or listening to comparisons of recordings when done by expert commentators who know the score, a large range of versions and can bring some sort of objective criteria into their judgment as to why a) is a stronger recording than b). BBC Radio 3s 'Building a Library' programme on a Saturday morning does this very well.

But when the general music enthusiast starts going on about 'depth' and 'shallowness' without making clear what basis that judgement rests on, then it very quickly degenerates into Classical Connoisseur Top Trumps.

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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Have you heard Gould's versions of Goldberg's? Perrahia's recordings was my first exposure to Goldberg's, and I liked them, but once I heard Gould '55 (and subsequently, any other "major" version of Goldberg's), I grew to regard Perrahia as a pretty but shallow salon version, Goldber's-lite, if you will (IMHO, of course).

I respectfully disagree. Gould's version does little for me, and I find Perahia's to be much more full of substance and depth. To each their own.

How are qualities/deficiencies like 'depth', 'shallowness', 'substance' calibrated?

They are not - these are relative, not absolute terms - although we do use standard English (myself, however, with questionable success), so deviation can't be that dramatic.

At the same time, when listening to different interpretations of the same work I am fairly comfortable making comparisons in these admittedly fuzzy terms, and I am not sure I need to be an expert to do so.

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...I grew to regard Perrahia as a pretty but shallow salon version, Goldber's-lite, if you will (IMHO, of course).

...seems pretty damning to me (with or without the IMHO). If it's that bad it should be possible to say clearly why.

Otherwise 'Perahia doesn't really move or engage me' gets the same point across.

I know neither Perahia's version or Gould's; I'm making a more general point about the way we amateurs discuss music, largely aping the approach we've picked up from more combative critics. Some of them have the technical insight (and have devoted some intensive study into the music they are reviewing) to at least partially excuse their disdain. I'm not convinced most armchair critics do.

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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...I grew to regard Perrahia as a pretty but shallow salon version, Goldber's-lite, if you will (IMHO, of course).

...seems pretty damning to me (with or without the IMHO). If it's that bad it should be possible to say clearly why.

Otherwise 'Perahia doesn't really move or engage me' gets the same point across.

I know neither Perahia's version or Gould's; I'm making a more general point about the way we amateurs discuss music, largely aping the approach we've picked up from more combative critics. Some of them have the technical insight (and have devoted some intensive study into the music they are reviewing) to at least partially excuse their disdain. I'm not convinced most armchair critics do.

Good points. I like Angela Hewitt's recordings of Bach very much, by the way.

To get back to the earlier discussion, I simply like Murray Perahia's "Goldberg Variations" much more than Gould's. I must confess that I seem to have a blind spot for Gould. He is a critic's darling, and many listeners praise him highly. I have many of his CDs, and have listened repeatedly to them, and I just do not get why people are so intensely enthusiastic about him. Your points are well taken. I lack the musical background to state what it is about Gould's interpretations that do not particularly move me. All I can really say is that I don't like his work all that much. I get tired when I hear once again that Gould is so great, and any other pianist pales by comparison.

If Gould speaks to a listener, that is just as valid as my preference for Perahia.

As Perahis's recording of "Goldberg Variations" has been ridiculed in this thread, I would point out that it has received much favorable critical acclaim, from critics with much more musical background and understanding than me.

Edited by Hot Ptah

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I've only heard Gould in passing. What I've read suggests that either he, his management or record company were very good at developing a 'cult of personality' around him - something that is as strong in classical music as it is in jazz or pop.

I've no doubt from the enthusiasm I've read that at the time he was an exciting player with a very original way of presenting the music (as in getting it out to the public). I can see why people who were listening at that time would hold him dear (I have my own loyalties to performers from the 70s which I stick to, regardless of more recent recordings). It's only natural to hold a special place for first love.

It's the deification I wonder about. And it's not just a Gould issue. How many time do I read comments from people who clearly have only just touched on listening to classical music making the grandest claims for the brilliance of these ancestor-heroes. Does the brilliance of the performer really just jump off the disc to the virgin listener? Seems to me that any special qualities are going to come out over a period of time, in comparison with other performers. There's an element of parrotting received wisdom here.

I don't doubt for a moment that there are differences in performances (I've heard them!) and that, over time, we evolve our own preferences. But I feel that there's a lot of voodoo involved in the marketing of classical music - both in the presentation of new arists (the "brilliant young geniuses" or the "octogenarian with a lifetime's experience that allows him to reveal hidden depths in his Bruckner") and in the approach that tries to persuade us that we haven't really heards Bach unless we have listened to X's 1938 version.

Which is why I read classical reviews (and internet posts!) with some scepticism. Those that relate their judgement to extensive listening and particular references to why the judgement is being reached I find useful (though I frequently don't understand them!); those that just express their personal enjoyment (or disappointment) can enthuse me (or make me wary). But far too many talk in the wooliest terms about 'depths' and 'shallows' and the like leaving me none the wiser, and with the suspicion that the commentary is just being read onto the music. At that point the 'Writing about music is like dancing about architecture' cliche (attributed to all sorts of people!) becomes a reality.

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...I grew to regard Perrahia as a pretty but shallow salon version, Goldber's-lite, if you will (IMHO, of course).

...seems pretty damning to me (with or without the IMHO). If it's that bad it should be possible to say clearly why.

Otherwise 'Perahia doesn't really move or engage me' gets the same point across.

I know neither Perahia's version or Gould's; I'm making a more general point about the way we amateurs discuss music, largely aping the approach we've picked up from more combative critics. Some of them have the technical insight (and have devoted some intensive study into the music they are reviewing) to at least partially excuse their disdain. I'm not convinced most armchair critics do.

Bev, I respectfully disagree. We tend to respond emotionally to music and use subjective loaded terms to describe it. I don't think professional critics have a monopoly on use of the terms "deep", "shallow" or whatever. I heard both Gould and Perrahia versions many times, and I don't need to refer to a critical consensus to make (and state) my opinion. If it sounds shallow to me I think I have every reason to say so, and so does anybody for whom it sounds deep.

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Bev, I respectfully disagree. We tend to respond emotionally to music and use subjective loaded terms to describe it. I don't think professional critics have a monopoly on use of the terms "deep", "shallow" or whatever. I heard both Gould and Perrahia versions many times, and I don't need to refer to a critical consensus to make (and state) my opinion. If it sounds shallow to me I think I have every reason to say so, and so does anybody for whom it sounds deep.

I'm not getting at you, A.A. I've read enough of your posts (and benefited from them) to know that your love of music is as genuine as everyone else who spends time in posting in places like this. This comes out of a general disquiet with the way music is written about.

I've no more time for professional use of 'deep', 'shallow' etc.

Out of interest, how does a 'shallow' performance sound different from a 'deep' one when played by musicians with the training annd long professional careers of a Perahia, Hewitt or Gould? What does it actually mean?

Here are a couple of listener reactions from Amazon to the Hewitt Goldberg disc (amidst a sea of equally subjective but largely positive reactions):

I have listened to Hewitt's entire Bach solo keyboard series which, for the most part, is a treasure. Her sensitivity to Bach's music is obvious, her technique is flawless, her touch at times magical, and her accompanying notes fascinating. But of her Bach series, I found her Goldberg to be something of a disappointment. This is a deeply passionate (not "Romantic") work, not simply an utterly perfect one. Hewitt captures its perfection, but not its passion. At critical moments (especially in the intense 25th variation) the emotionality of this work seems somehow to get away from her, almost as if it frightens her and forbids her to let go. I have to recommend Perahia's version above this one -- not, as one reviewer here states, because it's more "Romanitic", but because it's more passionate, more "real", more human. Then I'd say Rosalyn Tureck's. Then this one. (If, for some bizarre reason, you like Glenn Gould, get one of his ghastly versions. If you like Bach, and especially if you love Bach, don't!) I'd give all the others in Hewitt's series 5 stars for sure.

There are always two kinds of pianists in this world. The ones, prodigiously talented, praised by critics and satisfied with themselves, never question what they are doing, therefore stuck in one place without ever reaching depth of music making which can stand test of time. (Kissin, Ashkenazy, Argerich etc)

The others who keep asking questions and aspire to reach higher realm of music making, trying to capture fleeting moment of the divine. (Richter, Rubinstein, Pogorelich, Volodos etc)

To me Hewitt belongs to the former. The elegance, fluency and subtlety of her playing are admirable enough, but that's all there is. Her recordings and her live performances Bach give me the impression that she is just content scratching surface of the music despite her refined style. Pretty playing but not for me.

You can play 'spot the unsubstantiated assertion' like billy-o there! The second is talking fluent parrot.

Not saying anyone is denied the right to express such views. But to me, it's all projection.

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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Not saying anyone is denied the right to express such views. But to me, it's all projection.

It's all projection, indeed. I suggest we get on with discussing the music, each in his/her terms (or, as you would probably say, in terms mindlessly borrowed from professional critics). Discussing the music is silly enough, discussing how to discuss the music is plain absurd.

A side note on reviews, whether professional of amateur, I tend to hardly pay any attention to those. I somehow can't reconcile the facts that: a) 80% of reviews are positive, b) 90% of released music is crap. There are a few reviewers / forum posters whose opinions have empirically shown to coincide with mine in most cases, and these are the only ones I pay attention to when making a buying decision.

Meanwhile, back to Bach - anybody heard Olli Mustonen's recordings of Bach and Shostakovich preludes & fugues (he released a couple of CDs, each mixing Bach's and Shostakovich's works). The concept is quite intriguing.

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Why do some people here prefer the earlier solo cello suites (RCA/Seon, 1970s) by Anner Bijlsma to his later set (Sony, 1992)? I've not heard either (I have the Pablo Casals, Pierre Fournier, Jaap ter Linden and Pieter Wispelwey sets), but I've read a few reviews and the majority prefer the more recent set. The earlier set was described as having a more academic interpretation and a sometimes "severe", "wooden" or even "sour" tone, while Bijlsma was said to have a better instrument, a freer interpretation and a more natural tone, and to play better on the later set.

Anyone?

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I'll fess up here...

Bought "Bylsma I" years ago (c. 1997) as a present. Shopped around a lot in those days, and at that time I perceived a distinct critical preference (both published critics and Internet forum posters) for the earlier set. I'll just cite one r.m.c.r post here.

I wound up ripping a copy of Bylsma I and love it (at that time I owned just the Philips Duo with Maurice Gendron), but I have not heard Bylsma II (though I imagine it couldn't exactly be chopped liver), and was just parroting the received opinions I found in the 1990s. Sorry.

Edited by T.D.

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Well, I got "Bijlsma II" in the meantime and love it, both the interpretation and his tone. I hasten to add that I still haven't heard "Bijlsma I", though.

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For Bach, Glenn Gould. Amazing stuff.

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