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Re: GG: non-keyboard Bach works

On Fri, 31 May 1996, K. Berry wrote:

>     I am fascinated by the following GG has, and have joined to observe
>     something of the reason why.
> I suppose this a truism, but for me, the sum of Gould + Bach is
> something beyond the superlatives that each are individually. It is
> magical to me, for reasons I cannot explicate any better than the usual
> list (bringing out voices, illuminating counterpoint, etc.).

I would add "clarity of mental formulation and structure."  Gould usually
makes the music sound so logical and complete.  Well, except for the
French Suites and parts of the English Suites, in which I find his
performances severely lacking in grace, charm, and understanding of the
French keyboard idiom.  His playing there is heavy, ugly, and driven. 
Ugh.  He was better at the more abstract contrapuntal works and the

It would be interesting to hear what he would have made of the Capriccio
in Bb, the programmatic one about Bach's brother going away. 

Also, Wolfgang Rubsam (on Naxos) is worth hearing in all the Bach solo
works, played on piano.  And Schiff.  If you must have piano instead of
harpsichord or clavichord, Rubsam and Schiff are often more interesting
with detail and rhythm than Gould was...but sometimes at the expense of

If you want a Gouldian smorgasbord of levels of interest on harpsichord,
get the Partitas played by Edward Parmentier. 

> The video `An Art of Fugue' is the culmination of it all for me ...
> Tangent to that, does anyone have favorite recordings of non-keyboard
> Bach pieces? Even the standards: the six unaccompanied violin pieces,
> the Brandenburg concertos, the violin concertos. I have yet to find
> anything that really resonated with me at anything like the level that
> Gould does. (I am happy with/recommend Casals' recording of the six
> unaccompanied cello pieces and Lutz Kirchhof's complete solo lute
> recording, though :-)

Very easy recommendations: 

Unaccompanied violin pieces: Sigiswald Kuijken.  Awesome grasp of both
dance and structure; many levels of interest, as with Gould.  Jaap
Schroeder's and Sergiu Luca's are also pretty good.  Many critics seem to
like the Milstein, but I can't stand it. 

Brandenburgs: Jordi Savall, far and away the best.  But it's also worth
hearing Musica Antiqua Koeln for contrast, as well as Benjamin Britten's. 
I wish that William Malloch had got around to the Brandenburgs, as he did
with the orchestral suites (album "Suites for Dancing").  Stay away from
Pinnock, Hogwood, Gardiner, and Koopman in this repertoire: oh so
boringboringboring, clean lifeless playing.  If you must have an English
approach to the Brandenburgs, then go with Parrott.

Violin concertos: Kuijken, again.  Graceful, exciting, and so clear
(compositionally).  There's also a remarkable set of the reconstructions
(harpsichord concertos back to violin and/or oboe) by the Orchestra of the
Age of Enlightenment (I think that Elizabeth Wilcock plays/directs on that
one).  And the solo oboe concerto reconstructions played by Hammer and
Rifkin, probably out of print. 

Cello: Yes, the Casals set is fine, but I can think of three better ones: 
Pieter Wispelwey, and both the sets by Anner Bylsma. 

Lute: Lutz Kirchhof has nothing compared with Hopkinson Smith.  Kirchhof
is merely pleasant and solidly reliable, compared with Smith's ecstasy and
shaping of the music. 

Flute works: Wilbert Hazelzet (Musica Antiqua Koeln), or Barthold Kuijken,
or Bruggen. 

St. Matthew Passion: Philippe Herreweghe.  Some nice moments in the
Leonhardt, too.  But avoid Gardiner's: it's simultaneously histrionic and
boring.  The Klemperer and Furtwaengler are also pretty special. 

B Minor Mass: Herreweghe, Harnoncourt (his remake is better than the first
one), Leonhardt, or Bruggen.  Again avoid Gardiner.  Some nice moments in
Klemperer's.  At all costs, avoid the Ama Deus Ensemble's on Vox; it's
completely ruined by the harpsichord playing, and the interpretation isn't
interesting either...the type of recording that gives music a bad name. 
(I wish I could be more charitable, but it's *so* bad that it's just plain
embarrassing and sad.)

Christmas Oratorio: Herreweghe again.  Such a nice blend of elegance and
passion.  Harnoncourt is also quite good. 

Bradley Lehman, bpl@umich.edu       http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/