The Birth of a Legend: Gould’s first recording for Columbia, playing Bach as if someone had parted the curtains and thrown open the windows in a dark, stuffy room. The critics were ecstatic; the release broke all records and is still considered one of the ten most significant and successful classical recordings of all time.
he last recording to appear in Gould’s lifetime, completing the discographical circle that had begun so spectacularly with the same work in 1955. “I would like to think that there is a kind of autumnal repose in what I’m doing, so that much of the music becomes a tranquilizing experience. It would be nice if what we do in the recorded state could involve the possibility of some degree of perfection, not purely of a technical order, but also of a spiritual order.”
This statement by Bach’s biographer Philipp Spitta to sum up the Ciaconna in Partita No. 2 in D minor is in fact true of the entire Sei Solo cycle. The sublimity and originality of these compositions can never be emphasised enough. Johann Sebastian Bach extravagantly draws on his rich fund of musical idiom to create harmonies and tone colours that reveal his masterstroke: by applying rigidly entrenched rules he gives free rein to the creative spirit. The rules of “pure composition”, which until this cycle were applied only in large-scale polyphonic works for ensembles and in choral and keyboard works, are now being imposed by Bach on the little four-stringed violin in an uncompromising and, at times, awe-inspiring manner. Did I become a violinist to play Bach’s solo works or do I play Bach’s solo works in order to be a violinist? All I can say for sure is that my inner urge to play and master these pieces has been my motivation for many years, an ambition that continues to push me to the limits and beyond. The Sei Solo works are but a small part of Johann Sebastian Bach’s phenomenal oeuvre. Yet, their performance is the most important part of my violin-playing career and the tribute to my many hours of practice. –Midori Seiler
The boxed set, which is named after a track recorded in 1974 but not officially released until the 1990s, includes a huge set of studio recordings of some of David Bowie’s most memorable tracks. Driven by an entirely deeper dynamic than most pop artists, David Bowie inhabits a very special world of extraordinary sounds and endless vision. Unwilling to stay on the treadmill of rock legend and avoiding the descent into ever demeaning and decreasing circles of cliché, Bowie writes and performs what he wants, when he wants. His absence from the endless list of “important events” has just fuelled interest. Constant speculation about what the guy was up to has even led some to wonder if this is his greatest reinvention ever.
Digital Download 192kHz/24bit Boxed Set: Diamond Dogs (Remastered) David Live (Original Mix) (Remastered)* The Gouster* Young Americans (Remastered) Station To Station (Remastered) * Exclusive to WHO CAN I BE NOW? (1974-1976) (more…)
Opening the program is the colourful and joyful concerto for violin and oboe (Alfredo Bernardini, oboe) with its supremely lyrical central movement. Two of Bach’s solo violin concertos, each overflowing with inventive detail, and the Sinfonia with solo oboe that opens Cantata 21, follow.
The program culminates in one of Bach’s greatest masterpieces – the Double Concerto for two violins (Huw Daniel, violin), with its famous and sublime slow movement. Although Bach was most famous as an organist and keyboard player, he was also a fine violinist; his idiomatic writing and characteristic flair is evident in the many dazzling moments he creates.
Hilary Hahn is not regarded as an early music star, by any means, but her recordings of J.S. Bach’s violin concertos with Jeffrey Kahane and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra are somewhat in the spirit of historically informed performances, and listeners who might have expected more mainstream interpretations may be pleasantly surprised. Some of the expected characteristics of Baroque period practice are here, such as fleet tempos, a small ensemble, bright sonorities, light textures, and an active harpsichord and cello continuo, and the versatility of Kahane and his group goes far to create this period quality. Hahn might have indulged in some free ornamentation and even added some improvised cadenzas, but her straightforward playing is at least clean and unaffected, and she deserves credit for her brilliant technique, which carries these pieces. While her approach to Bach isn’t close to Rachel Podger’s playing in authentic Baroque style, neither does it approximate the richer, heavier, “old school” style of Yehudi Menuhin, so Hahn may appeal to some listeners as a compromise between competing schools of thought. Deutsche Grammophon’s recording puts Hahn in a prominent, central position, so it’s easy to stay focused on her solo part in the big sound of this hybrid SACD. –AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
Ever in search of the ideal sound: for a while Gould apparently planned to record the Well-Tempered Clavier on a “harpsipiano” (“a neurotic piano that thinks it’s a harpsichord”), but Columbia declined. What remained is a level of polyphonic lucidity and contrapuntal rigor that beggars comparison.
Gould had already recorded Fugue No. 9 in E major (BWV 878) and No.14 in F-sharp minor (BWV 883) in 1957 to fill up an LP with the Fifth and Sixth Partitas (see No. 4). The earlier readings were much slower: 4’17” as opposed to 1’46” for BWV 878, and 3’14” instead of 2’45” for BWV 883. You never cross the same river twice …
Book II of the Well-Tempered Clavier occupies much more space in Gould’s discography than the first. The interpretative range is all the more striking: Fugue No. 7 in E-flat major, for instance, appears in two early CBC versions lasting 3:19 (1953) and 2:03 (1966) minutes, respectively, while the one here whizzes past in one minute and thirty-eight seconds.
Claude-Bénigne Balbastre enjoyed a very distinguished reputation as a harpsichordist, fortepianist and organist in eighteenth-century France. Born in Dijon in 1724, in his early years he most likely took music lessons from his good friend Claude Rameau, brother of the more famous Jean-Philippe, with whom Balbastre was later to study composition.