My favorite things German: J.S. Bach

One reader requested "My Favorite Things German" for weeks (possible, but yikes), instead he’ll get selected tidbits, today is J.S. Bach.

1. Organ music: I favor the Trio Sonatas, most of all by Christopher Herrick.  After that, buy any collection by Herrick or Peter Hurford.

2. Brandenburg Concerti: I don’t like most recordings of these; they either sound like sewing machines or they are whiny.  But both Felix Prohaska or Otto Klemperer are supremely musical with these pieces.

3. Keyboard music: Go for piano not harpischord.  For Well-Tempered Klavier get the dreamy Samuel Feinberg or Richter, for the English Suite in A Minor get Glenn Gould, for the Partitas get Glenn Gould, for the Goldbergs get both Gould recordings.  Best of all is the Art of the Fugue, for piano, by Grigory Sokolov.

4. B Minor Mass: Gardiner or Herreweghe.

5. St. Matthew’s Passion: Klemperer (the best voices), Suzuki (all-Japanese, and fantastic), or Herreweghe.

6. Solo Violin music: Get the second Nathan Milstein set, the stereo recording.  Perlman’s version is technically perfect but doesn’t sound like a real violin.

7. Solo Cello Suites: Rostropovich is romantic, Starker is analytical, and Navarra is underrated.

That, in my view, is the truly essential Bach.  I’ve never developed the same love for his Cantatas, too many of them were churned out or recycled.  They were better to buy on LP, when you could get one excellent cantata on each side.  Most of the available CD cantata collections contain a fair amount of chaff.

#33 out of 50.


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