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Posts Tagged ‘J.S. Bach’

There are two things you should know before buying a greatest hits album by one of the legendary composers whose music we often call ‘classical’.

First, the purists hate them. Their ire is understandable. Art music is so enriched by an understanding of its historical moment, its place in a composer’s career, the history of its performance, and the like that it seems almost barbaric to strip out a few listen-able tunes and flog them on an album that provides none of this context. These are portions of long pieces, not the four-and-a-half minute stand-alone tunes to which we’ve become familiar (and learned both to love and to consider normal) in pop music.

Second, the big box stores are full of ‘greatest hits’ albums performed by fourth-tier, no-name orchestral groups with little personality and unrecognizable roots. Don’t buy them if your entree into, say, Bach is really an entrance to something larger rather than just a need to fill the house with a little background music (which is not a bad thing on its own terms and beats hearing the doors squeak on their hinges or the frozen pizza sizzle on its lard-ish pan). (more…)

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The inimitable John Nelson, conductor of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, has a knack for giving little known musical pieces and as-yet uncelebrated artists their due. He has made good on this worthy capacity by conducting his consort in a debut recital CD of one of our moment’s finest contraltos.

Stephanie Blythe works her way sensuously through this Baroque repertoire with all the gravitas of an ancient mariner, yet as well with the supple litheness of youth. (more…)

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While living in Costa Rica, my only convenient place to buy classical CDs was a bookstore that was heavy into the Philips Duo package. As a result, I now own many recordings in this series. Nobody beats Philips Duo for producing affordable recordings of venerable performances at the highest artistic and technical standards.

I musici playing all of Bach’s Brandenburg and Violin concerti is no exception. The oldest performances on this double-CD set are a half-century old. Yet they sound as crisp and clear as you’d hear them this evening in the concert hall. That’s simply awesome. (more…)

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