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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

Ramblings on Bach Record Reviews

From:

Donald Satz <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 18 Mar 2000 15:02:09 PST

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I like Gramophone and I love Bach, but I've concluded that the magazine
has some odd notions of what constitutes a great Bach keyboard performance.
I have had this feeling for some time, but it really took flight after
reading Gramophone's review of the WTC set from Bernard Roberts on Nimbus
and their review of Koroliov's Goldberg Variations on Hanssler.  The
Roberts interpretation was as straight-forward as you can get and lacked
any significant sense of nuance, depth, or emotional connection; yet, the
magazine declared the performances to be excellent.  Although more worthy,
the Koroliov recording was lacking in the same aspects, and again, the
verdict was excellent.  They also provided one of those "Brief Reviews"
of the WTC, Book 1 by Schepkin and dumped on it for going overboard.

So, I detect that the Gramophone preferred Bach keyboard interpretation is
one which gets all the notes right, veers little from some pre-determined
range of acceptable interpretive options, keeps the momentum going, and
sounds good while involved in other activities.

Fanfare is much more in line with my views on Bach keyboard works.
Expanding on that, I think that Fanfare does better with Bach reviews than
any of the other English-speaking magazines.  It's a matter of degree of
"rigidity" and "standard of quality".  I have the sense that the typical
Fanfare reviewer listens to a Bach recording with "fresh" ears AND demands
a high level of performance.  The ARG Bach reviewers still tend to reveal
a basic skepticism of period instrument performances and give me the
impression that they are "dying" to hear good modern instrument recordings.
For some list members, I do understand that the ARG Bach reviews would be
more beneficial to their preferences.  Classic CD and BBC Music Magazine
are too easily satisfied.  But, I find it insightful to read them all, as
each one provides some information or comment which helps me decide on my
buying selections.

Speaking of those, I just received the Eroica Quartet recording on Harmonia
Mundi of Beethoven string quartets opus 74, 95, and 135.  I'll let you know
soon how good they are or aren't.  I am impressed that the disc holds three
quartets.  The Eroica Quartet received excellent reviews for its recording
of Mendelssohn string quartets, but this will be my first opportuity to
hear them.

Don Satz
[log in to unmask]

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