J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings


Main Performer
or Conductor:
Christoph Poppen
Accompaniment/Orchestra:Munchener Kammerorchester and The Hilliard Ensemble
Individual Works:
  • Bach: Fuga (Ricercata) from Musical Offering BWV 1979 orchestrated by Anton Webern
  • Webern: String Quartet
  • Bach: Cantata No. 4 "Christ lag in Totesbanden" BWV 4
  • Webern: Five Movements for String Quartet op. 5
  • Bach: Fuga (Ricercata) from Musical Offering BWV 1979 orchestrated by Anton Webern
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:ECM
Catalog Number:ECM 1774
Year Released/Recorded:2003
Total Playing Time:69:08
Comments:Jan Hanford said:

Sometimes I just have to ask the question "why?" Why would anyone release a recording as awful as this?

After the exquisite beauty of Morimur, Poppen has now given us a recording of stupendous ugliness. Correction: not all of it is ugly. There is sublime beauty mixed in just to be sure that the optimistic Bach listener is infuriated by the rest of the recording.

The Webern orchestration of the fugue from Bach's Musical Offering is truly sublime. It also goes without saying that the performance is outstanding in every way, although the inclusion of it twice on the cd is somewhat odd.

What is appalling is the inclusion of Webern on this cd which is simply one of the stupidest ideas any record company has ever had. No wonder classical sales in the industry are down. I assume the makers of this recording had a reason to mix these two incompatible composers together on one recording but the liner notes are incomprehensible so it will remain a mystery to me. The purpose of the recording is irrelevant anyway since the results are completely unlistenable. But, thanks to technology, I converted the cd to mp3 in my iTunes software, unclicked the hideous Webern tracks and can listen to just the Bach. The result is only a 37 minute program including the 9 minute repetition of the orchestration of the fugue but at least it's beautiful. The Cantata is nicely done but since there is no shortage of beautifully performed Bach Cantatas this recording is basically redundant.

There's no point in my going on; I don't want to waste more time reviewing this mess since I already wasted so much time listening to it.

Scott Belyea said:

An excellent recording. Lovely music, a creatively-chosen program, and superb execution. Don't know why it took me so long to get around to it.

The Bach and Webern pieces "fit." Bookending the CD with the Ricercar was an inspired choice.

Highly recommended.

One small addition - the Webern Quartet was orchestrated by Poppen.

  • Scott BelyeaFrom the collection of Jan Hanford.
  • Date First Submitted:08/30/2005