Customer Review

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine recording of a masterpiece, 7 Jun 2008
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This review is from: Bach: Musical Offering BWV 1079; Canons BWV 1072-1078, 1086, 1087 (Edition Bachakademie Vol 133) /Behringer · Kaiser · Goltz (Audio CD)
The 'Musical Offering' is undoubtedly one of the most unjustly negelcted of Bach's masterpieces in modern times.

The work is a collection of pieces based upon a theme given to Bach by Frederick II of Prussia in 1747, 3 years before Bach's death. The 2 men had met in Frederick's Court and the composer was asked to improvise fugues based upon the theme. It was also a chance for Bach to try out the newly invented fortepiano, a forerunner of the pianos that we know and love today.

We have no way of knowing what Bach played on the day, but he went away from the meeting and wrote down 10 canons, a trio sonata and 2 ricercares, all exploring this same theme.

By this late stage, Bach had developed a minimalist, ascetic style, comparable perhaps to the late styles of Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner and Strauss. One also hears this pared-down, distilled style in the 'Goldberg' variations, brought back to life by glenn Gould in the 1950s, and in the towering 'Art of Fugue'.

A variery of instrumental combinations are used, and the 2 ricercares are pieces for solo keyboard. On this disk the 3 part ricercare is played on a fortepiano, whilst the other 6 part one is presented on the harpsicord, the more conventional modern choice.

'Ricercare' is a word used in the late 16th and early 17th centuries to describe almost any type of piece, but it came to be applied as often as not to a fugue. There is also attached to the word the idea of exploration - this could be the exploration of a mode or key, or a motif or theme.

Bach's 2 ricercares here, being fugues which develop Frederick's theme, are pieces which therefore amply justify the exhumation of this term. In addition, the 6 part piece makes use of a style more remeniscent of the English genius of the late 16th century, Orlando Gibbons. It also is one of Bach's greatest fugues.

This is the best recording I have heard of this masterpiece.
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Reviewer

C. Harman
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Location: London, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 157,142