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Johann, I'm Only Dancing / Red Priest

Red Priest / Bach,J.s.
Release Date: 03/09/2010 
Label:  Red Priest Recordings   Catalog #: 7   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Fun with JS Bach but not at the expense of his music … deserves to be a runaway success."

I was more than a little sniffy about the last Red Priest recording that I reviewed – Angela East’s Bach Cello Suites on RP006 – see review – so I am happy to state unambiguously at the outset that I thoroughly enjoyed the current offering. It deserves to be a runaway success.
 
The cover shot really tells you all that you need to know – this is a fun recording of the music of Johann Sebastian, much in the style of the group’s earlier recordings of their progenitor, the Red Priest Vivaldi, and one which approaches
Read more Bach’s music with the same irreverent reverence as the Swingle Singers. The irreverence is apparent from the performers’ postures on the cover and inside, the reverence by their use of period instruments (violin and cello) or copies. The famous portrait of Bach appears on the inside back cover of the booklet with a glass of champagne in his hand – and just a hint of retouching to make him smile a little?
 
I’m sure the composer of the ‘Coffee’ and ‘Peasant’ Cantatas would have approved. In fact, I’m wondering if an arrangement of the bagpipe dance finale from the latter, Wir gehn nun wo der Dudelsack, might not have made an even better conclusion to Johann, I’m Only Dancing than the finale of Brandenburg No.3. Please, Decca or Australian Eloquence, may we have the wonderful Emma Kirkby/Christopher Hogwood Oiseau-Lyre recording of the ‘Coffee’ and ‘Peasant’ Cantatas restored to the catalogue? Even the Passionato download which I recommended in my July, 2009, Download Roundup no longer seems to be available.
 
I had some reservations about the best-known work here, the d minor Toccata and Fugue, BWV565, perhaps because of its familiarity as an organ piece; I can even play it, or could once do so. Scholars have long had their doubts about the authenticity of this work, at least in its organ form, yet it is hard to believe that there could have been some contemporary genius who kept his light so much under a bushel that we do not know his name and have no other extant works of his. It’s more likely that the music is by JS, but not originally conceived for the organ – after all, we are used to performances of several of his concertos in their hypothetical original forms, different from those which have come down to us, but I don’t think that anyone has proposed quite the line-up offered here. Scholarly it ain’t, but it is fun.
 
Everything else works really well, though you might think that the scholarly should remain in their ivory towers, well away from this CD. The rest of us can enjoy. On second thoughts, I’m not sure that even the scholarly need stay away – perhaps they should set their players to skip BWV565 – since I don’t agree with the statement in the booklet that ‘authentic’ Bach need be austere. One web site on which I have seen this Red Priest CD advertised recommends those who enjoy it to follow it up with recordings by Il Giardino Armonico, whose Bach contrives to be both ‘authentic’ and highly enjoyable. Red Priest conclude the CD with Brandenburg Concerto No.3, a performance which could lead you straight to one of the livelier recent recordings of this work, though you won’t find on any of them the thwacks of the bow and popping noises which accompany this version. Red Priest polish off the Allegro in 4:44 and the Presto (shouldn’t that actually be Allegro?) following a delightful 2-minute improvised cadenza, in 2:37, though with some repeats omitted in the finale.
 
Even Il Giardino Armonico cannot match these speeds; they take 5:43 and 4:43. Among other recent recordings which I have heard and enjoyed, Trevor Pinnock, no slouch on his highly recommendable recent Avie recording with the European Brandenburg Ensemble, takes 5:32 and 4:41 respectively (AV2119). John Eliot Gardiner’s excellent English Baroque Soloists, again no slouches, take 5:23 and 4:21 for these movements (SDG707) and Suzuki with the Japan Bach Collegium 5:42 and 4:19 (BIS-SACD 1721/2). Red Priest revel in almost coming off the rails in Brandenburg 3, or disappearing into the swirl which their group photograph becomes on the inner tray insert, but it should be an easy transition for anyone coming fresh to Bach in the new recording to transfer to one of these lively, if more circumspect alternatives.
 
Shorn of the considerations which I think partly spoiled Angela East’s recording of the Cello Suites, Red Priest here polish off the Prelude to Suite No.6 in 3:48, as opposed to 5:21 on the earlier CD. Of course, the purpose this time is quite different, but it is interesting that the tempo now is much closer to Steven Isserlis’ 4:33 on his complete Hyperion recording of the complete Cello Suites (CDA67541/2).
 
In analysing these performances too closely, however, I’m falling into a trap of my own making. When Chaucer’s Monk’s Tale becomes too pedantic and boring, the Knight interrupts him to say that enough is enough, and I’m going to interrupt my own pedantry here:
 
‘Hoo!’ quod the knight, ‘good sire, na-moore of this! 
That ye han seyd is right y-nough, ywis,
And mochel moore; for litel hevynesse
Is right ynough to moche folk, I gesse.’
 
Hevynesse (heaviness) is the last quality that you would associate with Johann, I’m Only Dancing. Everything here is intended for fun and that’s exactly what the outcome is, though without seriously distorting any of the music. Those two cello recordings on RP005 and RP006 were quite different in intention; this new recording is much closer to the spirit of the earlier Red Priest albums, though with JSB in place of Vivaldi and the other Italian composers. The outcome is as much fun as Pirates of the Baroque (RP004), which my colleagues and I welcomed – see review, review and review – and it deserves to be as successful as I hope that album has been.
 
With good recording and enough notes to make the purpose of the recording clear, this album can be recommended to those seeking a fun interpretation of some of Bach’s music which nevertheless does not in any essential way misrepresent that music, as long as we don’t take that arrangement of BWV565 too seriously. Mr Organ Morgan in Under Milk Wood, who rated ‘Johann Sebastian mighty Bach’ his favourite composer, might have objected – he doesn’t seem to have been the sort to see the fun in his hero’s music. The rest of us can only enjoy.
 
Brian Wilson, MusicWeb International

And so to the new release, which goes under the title of Johann, I’m Only Dancing (a word play on the title of David Bowie’s pop hit of 1972/3, “John, I’m Only Dancing”).


Looking down the list of preludes and fugues, boureés and gigues, I am reminded that Bach was a composer of absolute music par excellence. No extra-musical storms or birdcalls designed to capture the attention of a blasé court audience appear in his work. Here Red Priest is forced to fall back on its musical attributes, which include sensitivity alongside the familiar virtuosity: The musicians play the Andante from the E-minor Flute Sonata and the C-Minor Fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier with quiet dignity. As for the virtuoso element, try the Allegro from the C-Major Flute Sonata as a sample of Adams’s remarkable facility on his instrument. This music demands great breath control and considerable effort, yet with Adams it flows with a deceptive ease.


The performance of the Prelude and Fugue in C Minor defines the group neatly. The prelude goes so fast that the harpsichord’s figuration does not really register, and at one point Adams defiantly dominates with an interpolated descant. (In this rendition the prelude actually does sound like a sewing machine, the famous descriptive put-down of Baroque music.) By contrast, the fugue immediately following is a model of sobriety, with counterpoint cleanly delineated, and poise and nuance in the playing.


The Third Brandenburg Concerto is an unexpected choice, considering the flute or recorder parts already present in the fourth and fifth concertos. It gets a solid outing, the arrangement for these instruments sounding a little peculiar but not disrespectful. Ditto the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor: Despite its loss of thunder, the work survives the quartet treatment and demands to be taken seriously.


It may be that I am in more familiar territory, but to my mind this new release is the group’s finest, notwithstanding the absence of the red priest who is the mainstay of the other programs. Far from recommending the disc to no one, I would recommend the Bach collection unreservedly to all."

FANARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

1. Partita for Violin solo no 3 in E major, BWV 1006: 1st movement, Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 33 Secs. 
2. Sonata for Flute and Basso Continuo in E minor, BWV 1034: 3rd movement, Andante by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1717-1720; ?Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 38 Secs. 
3. Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1708; Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 6 Minutes 24 Secs. 
4. Suite for Cello solo no 6 in D major, BWV 1012: 1st movement, Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 48 Secs. 
5. Sonata for Flute and Harpsichord in A major, BWV 1032: 2nd movement, Largo by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Written: ?1724; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 33 Secs. 
6. Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2: Prelude and Fugue no 16 in G minor, BWV 885 - Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1738-1742; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 1 Minutes 55 Secs. 
7. Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 2 in C minor, BWV 847 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 30 Secs. 
8. Sonata for Flute and Harpsichord in C major, BWV 1033: Allegro by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 5 Secs. 
9. Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord in G minor, BWV 1020 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 9 Minutes 6 Secs. 
10. Concerto for Harpsichord in F minor, BWV 1056: 2nd movement, Largo-Arioso by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1738-1739; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 56 Secs. 
11. English Suite no 2 in A minor, BWV 807 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 5 Minutes 12 Secs. 
12. Toccata in D major, BWV 912: Introduction and Gigue by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1710; Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 55 Secs. 
13. Suite for Orchestra no 2 in B minor, BWV 1067 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1738-1739; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 38 Secs. 
14. Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043: 2nd movement, Largo ma non tanto by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 6 Minutes 13 Secs. 
15. Brandenburg Concerto no 3 in G major, BWV 1048 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Priest
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1711-1713; ?Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Nr Petworth, England 
Length: 9 Minutes 23 Secs. 

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