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Discussion: Bach: Die Kunst der Fugue - Savall

Posts: 7

Post by terence May 2, 2009 (1 of 7)
I wonder has anybody heard this recording and can comment on it?

Post by Arthur January 29, 2010 (2 of 7)
terence said:

I wonder has anybody heard this recording and can comment on it?

Thanks, Beagle, for he review. I've been on he fence about the work - rather like you. But now you may have pushed me off!

Bret

Post by Claude January 30, 2010 (3 of 7)
Just a small correction to Beagle's excellent review:

It's not "1986 DDD sound" (which would be in CD resolution). According to the back cover, it's an analogue recording made in 1986, transferred to 24/96 PCM in 2001, which was then transferred to SACD in 2004.

Post by canonical January 30, 2010 (4 of 7)
Another small comment re Beagle's review, which states re The Art of the Fugue:

"
-- I am amazed to see seven SACD recordings of this -- what word to use? -- work.
-- In truth it can be excruciatingly dull; ...
-- the most listenable rendition of Kunst der Fuge I've heard.
-- the dark side of the baroque
"

Cough.


There may be 7 versions on SACD, but none are for piano. I think it is a work that comes across best ... that is most pure - ... when played on the piano. I would recommend Glenn Gould's incomplete version (on piano; his organ rendition is rather dubious), and the version by Pierre-Laurent Aimard on DG (also piano). The various versions transcribed for string quartets and other configurations all have something Disney about them ... not the least being that the technical difficulty of playing (and bringing out) 4 separate parts by one human is made somewhat artificial when transcribed for 4 or more instruments.

I normally very much enjoy the beagle's reviews ...

But to describe the Art of the Fugue as "excruciatingly dull" ... when it arguably represents the zenith of Bach's compositional powers, and is a work of incredible beauty ... starting out of nothing and building into marvels of fugal complexity ... a work which ends mid-sentence ... almost violently ... dramatically ... To describe this as 'excruciatingly dull' ??? Mamma mia.

Post by Beagle January 30, 2010 (5 of 7)
Claude said: It's not "1986 DDD sound" (which would be in CD resolution)
I stand corrected. The colophon indeed says "à partir des bandes analogiques originales". I had its SPAR incorrectly entered in my reference database; cf footnote added to review.

Post by Beagle January 30, 2010 (6 of 7)
canonical said: But to describe the Art of the Fugue as "excruciatingly dull" ... when it arguably represents the zenith of Bach's compositional powers.
Yes, arguably the acme of Bach's technical accomplishments (Musical Offering is to my mind a close contender). I do not dispute the intellectual level of KdF, and I can thoroughly enjoy it stretched out in my favourite chair with a double-shot of double-cask Aberlour in hand. But to quote Savall again, "a work which may at first seem difficult to follow...".

Perhaps you had to be there, but please take my word for it: immobilised through nearly two hours of Kunst der Fuge's contrapuncti in a public venue where even shifting one's position in the seat invites social opprobrium, remains one of the most memorable evenings of the last three decades. The sense of depleted oxygen is still vivid in my mind.

Post by Fugue January 30, 2010 (7 of 7)
terence said:

I wonder has anybody heard this recording and can comment on it?

Yes--it's wonderful! Despite (or perhaps due to) an analog origin, the sound is extraordinarily clean, warm, and detailed. The performances leave absolutely nothing to be desired, unless one prefers it played on a keyboard, which I do. Yet, I have to admit that the ensemble definitely offers a less monochrome palette. The recently reviewed organ version may be a happy medium between harpsichord/piano and an ensemble: more color yet one may still admire the achievement of a single person playing all of those voices! It too has wonderful sound and performances. If you desire an ensemble version, I can't imagine Savall's being exceeded.

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