J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Die Kunst der Fuge

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Erich Bergel
Accompaniment/Orchestra:Cluj Philharmonic Orchestra
Individual Works:Die Kunst der Fuge BWV 1080
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:BMC
Catalog Number:CD 011
Year Released/Recorded:1991
Total Playing Time:87:59
Comments:George Murnu said:

Erich Bergel's version of Die Kunst der Fuge is the result of his lifelong association with Bach's music. Indeed, when he was imprisoned by the communist government of Romania for conducting religious works, he survived in no small part by studying Die Kunst der Fuge. In order to best understand Bergel's approach, is best to let him speak for himself, the quotes being made from the accopanying booklet of the recording:

"Bach's last great composition: The Art of Fugue is widely regarded as the climax of his creative work; indeed, some see it as the apogee of all European music. Here his contrapunctual technique reaches a crystalline clarity which has no equal in the music of all times. [...] It would be wrong to classify The Art of Fugue as either a pedagogical or art work. The one does not exclude the other; they are complementary. [...] Without a doubt the organ is the most suitable instrument to do justice to the polyphonic structures of Bach's concepts. However, in contrast to the objectivity of the organ sound, violinist and woodwind players are better equipped to express intense emotions. Consequently, the ideal choice seems to be a form of instrumentation which has the possibility of being expressive as well as powerful: the symphony orchestra. The orchestra need not necessarily be used according to the principles of Richard Strauss or Stravinsky. By means of octave doublings and combinations of instruments with different tone colours, it is possible to approximate the tonal qualities of the organ. These considerations served as guidelines for my orchestration.[...]".

Bergel brilliantly acchieves these goals and the Cluj Philharmonic ( now renamed the Transilvania Philharmonic ) plays very well for him. Bergel has completed himself the last, great fugue, and no less than Herbert von Karajan called this completion "an epoch-making feat". Those of you that expect the intensity of a Hermann Scherchen or a Karl Ristenpart will find none here, but Bergel's organ-like sonority makes for a no less valid approach.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • George Murnu
Date First Submitted:05/28/2002