J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Die Kunst der Fuge

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Soloists:Andras Keller, violin
Janos Pilz, violin
Zoltan Gal, viola
Otto Kertesz, cello
Viola da Gamba
Individual Works:Die Kunst der Fuge BWV 1080
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:ECM New Series
Catalog Number:ECM 1652 457 849-2
Year Released/Recorded:1997
Comments:Maurizio Scarpa said:

Unconventional, modern interpretation confirming Bach eternity.

Richard Bernas said:

A fascinating release; intelligent, probing, but sometimes flawed. The string quartet is an excellent medium for The Art of Fugue and the Keller Quartet achieve great clarity of line and balance, with each voice imaginatively phrased and well balanced within the whole. Problems? The style of the playing is - though reverent in approach - what one can best describe as promiscuous. There are gamba-imitations, period violin effects, modern playing techniques, all jumbled up. Is this meant to be PostModern Bach? Lively minds are at work, but those Fugues that don't cohere (for example, the second and third)come out sounding like "Designer Bach", with little or no integrity. The variety of approach is stimulating, though, and I have played this disc alot. Despite some very close recording which makes the Quartet's breathing and bow sounds all too clear. (NB: the last fugue is not finished off, it just stops).

John Stone said:

To supplement the scant remarks and misinformation a fellow Bach fan has submitted, I would like to add: the Keller Quartet does not use ancient instruments but are a modern quartet. That said, they manage to play with the same clarity, relative avoidance of vibrato, and otherwordly warmth and variety of tone more expected from a consort of viols in the hands of very accomplished players. The Keller Quartet far surpass the Julliard Quartet in their understanding and execution of this music. Their tempi are generally slower than those of other recordings, but this is in keeping with their overall reverent and subdued approach. The musicians do their utmost to both blend together and yet remain distinct in line; they probably succeed more at blending than in achieving true distinction of voices (for this, listen to the outstanding Phantasm recording), but the results are always beautiful, rich, and moving. The interpretation of the last, incomplete fugue is breathtaking: hushed, poignant, visionary, like the music itself.

Gene Herron said:

I first noticed this CD in the liner notes of the new Holliger recording of the Zelenka Trio Sonatas also put out by ECM. That alone was enough to inspire me to buy, what, my third or is it fourth recording of the "Art of the Fugue" as the new Holliger works are true masterpieces in their own time. The tempo for many of the works on this CD is slower than other Art of the Fugue recordings that I have heard. The musical ideas seem clearer for this difference. On the surface the texture seems uniform but this is an illusion. There is a good exchange of focus and ideas. When I began to think of snippets of it at work I knew that it was a good CD. The ending of the incomplete fugue was well done - you follow along to nowhere and it feels like a physical blow each time. I recommend this CD without reservation.

Jan Hanford said:

A truly remarkable performance. The sound is rich and the music's complexity almost takes on a modern quality at times. Some of Bach's most intellectual music, but still amazingly beautiful. Thankfully they do leave the final fugue unfinished, which is a haunting moment. There is some audible breathing, but it's not too excessive. The performance is extraordinary and I highly recommend this disc.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Maurizio Scarpa
  • Richard Bernas
  • John Stone
  • Gene Herron
And from the collection of Jan Hanford.
Date First Submitted:03/20/1999