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Johann Sebastian Bach: Orchestral Suites

Bach,J. S. / Il Fondamento / Dombrecht
Release Date: 04/12/2011 
Label:  Fuga Libera   Catalog #: 580   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Dirk Vandaele
Conductor:  Paul Dombrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Fondamento
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 41 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BACH Orchestral Suites (Original Versions) Paul Dombrecht (cond); Il Fondamento; Dirk Vandaele (vn) (period instruments) FUGA LIBERA FUF580 (2 CDs: 103:12)


To mark Fanfare ’s first major milestone, our fearless leader, Joel Flegler, invited each of his minions to revisit a review that he or she might wish to rethink. One of our distinguished colleagues opined that he hadn’t written anything he might want to change—for which I Read more still salute him—but most of us were able come up with something. My own mea culpa , undoubtedly chosen because of its relatively low embarrassment quotient, had to do with my questioning the desirability of playing music by Mozart on instruments that were made in the 18th century. Needless to say, I soon came to look at that issue from a different perspective. I do have second thoughts. I even edit my e-mails. I believe that I am not alone.


Arguably no artist in any field ever acted as extensively on second thoughts as J. S. Bach. Bach scholars have nothing equivalent to Beethoven’s notebooks, though; Bach rewrote finished pieces. I once suggested, facetiously, that we will eventually discover that he never composed any of the music he composed the first time around. Everything, we will conclude, was a rewrite. In many, if not most, instances Bach’s alterations were practical in nature (No oboist today? Play it on the organ). But many, surely, were intended as improvements.


So I sometimes puzzle over the dogged efforts of researchers and scholars to uncover first thoughts. This is the second recording of the “original versions” of the four orchestral suites to come my way. I discussed the first, by Monica Huggett conducting Ensemble Sonnerie on Avie, in Fanfare 33:1. Paul Dombrecht’s is similar, with one major difference. Both agree that the first suite is essentially unchanged from its initial form. And both agree that the trumpets in the third and fourth suites are later additions. Bach himself added the trumpets and chorus to the first movement of No. 4 to create the opening chorus of Cantata 110. Carl Philipp Emanuel apparently added the trumpets to No. 3. Both suites gained a huge measure of splendor at the expense of intimacy. I suspect that most listeners will favor the splendor. Where the two recordings differ is in the second suite. Both agree that the original solo instrument was not the familiar flute. Hugget/Avie posited the oboe; Dombrecht named the violin (despite the fact that Dombrecht was himself an oboist). Avie’s choice of the oboe was based on the research of Gonzalo Ruiz, who happens to be Avie’s excellent soloist. While Ruiz’s argument is convincing, one can’t dismiss the possibility that it might have been colored by wishful thinking. It seems more likely that Bach’s Collegium Musicum might have a highly skilled violinist on hand than a wind virtuoso.


Dombrecht’s performances are lively but unrushed, intimate but sonorous. The famous Air is elegantly understated. Dirk Vandaele’s splendid playing makes a strong case for assigning the solo part of No. 2 (transposed down to A Minor) to the violin. This set is hard to fault—unless, of course, you cling to the notion that Bach’s first thoughts may not have been better than, or as satisfying as, the second ones. If so, stick with John Eliot Gardiner, Ton Koopman, and/or Sigiswald Kuijken. But if an alternate take on these familiar wonders appeals to you, by all means, give this set (or the Avie version) a try.


FANFARE: George Chien
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Works on This Recording

1.
Suite for Orchestra no 1 in C major, BWV 1066 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Dirk Vandaele (Violin)
Conductor:  Paul Dombrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Fondamento
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany 
Venue:  Gijzegem (B), chapel of the Cloister of 
Length: 20 Minutes 39 Secs. 
2.
Suite for Orchestra no 2 in B minor, BWV 1067 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Dirk Vandaele (Violin)
Conductor:  Paul Dombrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Fondamento
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1738-1739; Leipzig, Germany 
Venue:  Gijzegem (B), chapel of the Cloister of 
Length: 18 Minutes 20 Secs. 
3.
Suite for Orchestra no 3 in D major, BWV 1068 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Dirk Vandaele (Violin)
Conductor:  Paul Dombrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Fondamento
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1729-1731; Leipzig, Germany 
Venue:  Gijzegem (B), chapel of the Cloister of 
Length: 18 Minutes 34 Secs. 
4.
Suite for Orchestra no 4 in D major, BWV 1069 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Dirk Vandaele (Violin)
Conductor:  Paul Dombrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Fondamento
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1729-1731; Leipzig, Germany 
Venue:  Gijzegem (B), chapel of the Cloister of 
Length: 16 Minutes 51 Secs. 

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