Notes and Editorial Reviews
Ton Koopman (hpd, cond); Amsterdam Baroque O (period instruments)
CHALLENGE 72309 (57:03)
In his notes Christoph Wolff points out that “
is the only instrumental work of Bach of which we have a more detailed knowledge of its origins,” which is pretty remarkable when you think about it. But we still don’t know how—or whether—Bach intended it to be performed. Of course, Bach played a version of the three-part ricercar
for the king, and I’m sure he hoped that the royal flutist would play the trio sonata for his court. But I rather doubt that he expected the complete
to be performed at public concerts. Except in the trio sonata, there is no indication of instrumentation, nor is there any indication of a performing sequence. The canons are music for connoisseurs, more suitable, perhaps, for private scrutiny than for mass entertainment. Nor do we know how Frederick reacted to this gift. Frederick was a composer himself, but his compositions show a preference for the simpler gallant manner that was ascendant. He had little patience for the old “ecclesiastical” style. In challenging “Old Bach” to write a six-part fugue on the royal subject, he was probably more interested in seeing whether it could be done than in hearing the result.
Now we take it for granted that the complete score should be performed as an entity, so it is left to the performers to determine the order and instrumentation of the numbers. Koopman has chosen to start with the three-part ricercar as a harpsichord solo, to follow it by the 10 canons, then the trio sonata, and to conclude with the six-part ricercar. His special twist is to play the six-part ricercar twice: first with the whole ensemble, and afterward as a duet for two harpsichords. Tini Mathot is the second harpsichordist. The canons are played mostly by the strings, joined by the flute in the middle group. The trio sonata, as noted, is scored for flute, violin, and continuo. Our old friend Wilbert Hazelzet does the honors on the
(flute); Catherine Manson is the violinist. All the enthusiasm and precision that we have come to expect from Koopman and his band are on display in these splendid performances—even in the canons, not always Bach’s most captivating inventions. This is one
that you ought not refuse.
FANFARE: George Chien
Works on This Recording
Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra
Written: 1747; Leipzig, Germany
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