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  Alia Vox -
  AVSA9818 (2 discs)
  Bach: Die Kunst der Fugue - Savall
  Bach: Die Kunst der Fugue

Hesperion XX
Jordi Savall (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Chamber
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 14 show all

Reviews: 1

Review by Beagle January 29, 2010 (8 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I am amazed to see seven SACD recordings of this... this -- what word to use? -- work. Many have called it 'academic', others 'theoretical'... no-one calls it 'dramatic' or 'romantic'. In truth it can be excruciatingly dull; I know this from having sat through a moribund 'live' performance by string quartet. My 1978 Academy of St-Martins-in-the-fields CD hasn't been played since the '80s.

But because I love Savall, I bravely included this disc in an order with other Hesperion XX SACDs. I'm pleasingly surprised by my impulse purchase. Like a composer orchestrating a symphony, Savall has artfully assigned clusters of his marvelous musicians to the various fugues -- thus dressing musical theory in sensuous colours. In Savall's own words,

"The instrumentation is determined on the one hand by formal criteria (highlighting the counterpoint, as for example the imitation between the voices) and, on the other, by the characteristics and technical possibilities of the instruments themselves. This instrumentation, while reinforcing the individual character of each fugue, also allows for variety of colour and dynamic intensity, which are essential to the audience's optimum perception of a work which may at first seem difficult to follow...."

The instrumental forces deployed are: viole de gamba soprano, viole de gambe altus, viole de gambe ténor, viole de gambe basse à sept cordes, cornetto, oboe da caccia, trombone ténor and bassoon. Although it is no 'Night on Bald Mountain', this is the most listenable rendition of Kunst der Fuge I've heard -- and on a gorgeous recording. The SACD engineers deliver to us the warm and deep analog* sound which Michel Bernstein captured in 1986.

KdF is obviously not a must-have work for everyone, but if you feel drawn to the dark side of the baroque, Savall will take you there in comfort. My one complaint: I can't pick up the digi-pak without having Savall's 72-page booklet fall out; quite painful if it hits a toe!
*Not DDD as originally stated, thank you Claude.

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Works: 1  

Johann Sebastian Bach - Die Kunst der Fugue, BWV 1080 (The Art of Fugue)