Notes and Editorial Reviews
These men play the recorders with ravishing delicacy and skill, and the four lines remain clearly differentiated, which is crucial to a successful performance.
These four virtuoso recorder players have been together since 1978, when they met as students at the Sweelinck Conservatory, Amsterdam. One has to admire their brashness and whimsy: In 1981 they won an early-music competition with their own arrangement of a Stevie Wonder tune. More germane to our project, they have also recorded a beautiful disc dedicated to the "melancholly" music of Holborne. Of course The Art of Fugue presents special problems to virtually any performer or group of performers. The Quartet is explicit about their solutions:
"Authenticity in the strictest sense has not been attempted. This would have involved a keyboard instrument. This is also the reason that we have only recorded two of the four canons. The two others, for us, are not realistically performable on our instruments. . . . There are several places to be found in the music where Bach has altered the logical movement of the voices, by means of octave transpositions or abbreviation, to make it playable for a keyboard instrument. In a performance with recorders, it is also necessary to use octave transposition." To meet Bach's demands (which are "barely within the limits of possibility"), the quartet uses 17 different recorders, including some provided with keys on the Boehm system.
Given these difficulties, restrictions, and necessary evasions, one might reasonably ask why they wanted to play these fugues at all. I suppose it is the quartet's sense of adventure. They rightly point out that Bach himself didn't expect people to play through or listen to all these fugues at a sitting: I remember B. H. Haggin's recommendation that the piece be listened to one fugue at a time. Indeed, the problem with this recording listened to otherwise is that its sound, however subtly nuanced, remains the sound of four recorders. These men play the recorders with ravishing delicacy and skill, and the four lines remain clearly differentiated, which is crucial to a successful performance. Still, they don't create as much contrast between fugues as is possible and as Robert Hill does on harpsichord, to mention the version I have listened to most recently. But what a pleasant and appealing sound is here! I feel ambivalent about the disc finally: I'll recommend it, but will also, following Bach's expectations, recommend that one listen to it a fugue or two at a time.
-- Michael Ullman, FANFARE [9/1999]
Works on This Recording
The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Daniel Brüggen (Recorder),
Bertho Driever (Recorder),
Paul Leenhouts (Recorder),
Karel Van Steenhoven (Recorder)
Loeki Stardust Quartet Amsterdam
Written: circa 1745-1750; Leipzig, Germany
Date of Recording: 1998
Venue: Baptist Church, Haarlem, Netherlands
Length: 73 Minutes 5 Secs.
Notes: Arranged: Loeki Stardust Quartet Amsterdam
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