Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Everything old is new again, and again

Bach was a towering genius, right up there with Leonardo and Shakespeare, but he was also a working musician who needed to come up with music every week. In the latest release from Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan we get a glimpse of the composer’s every-day world, though it's rare for the quotidian to impose itself on this spectacularly beautiful music. Reworking previous music is an obvious strategy, and Bach is busy plundering his cantatas in these Lutheran Masses. What’s amazing here is the care he took in doing this, with new instrumentation and subtle changes in melody and harmony. He obviously had enormous respect for his audience to take this much trouble; I hope the parishioners in his church appreciated this! There’s also evidence of the deeply religious composer’s interest in theology. These masses represent a cogent personal Christology which mattered at least as much to Bach as the music itself. An interesting bonus in this disc is the inclusion of a short mass by Marco Gioseppe Peranda, a Roman composer from the generation before Bach who was active in Dresden until 1675. It’s here because music historians have found parts of the mass in Bach’s own hand, showing that he presented Peranda’s music along with his own masses.

Suzuki has a special connection with Bach that has only grown over the 20 years since he convinced BIS president Robert van Bahr to let him record the cantatas with his Bach Collegium Japan. And under Suzuki’s leadership his musicians have the precision, clarity and grace to make Bach’s music sound both timeless and spontaneous. This disc is recommended just as highly as Volume 1, from last year.

Here's Bach's autograph of the A major Mass, BWV 234:

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