J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

From the W.F. Bach Notebook

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Wolfgang Rübsam
Individual Works:Partita di Signore Stelzeln
3 Minuets
From 9 Little Preludes
Fugue in C
Suite in A
5 Little Preludes
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Naxos
Catalog Number:8.553097
Year Released/Recorded:1994
Total Playing Time:67:03
Comments:Alex Temple said:

I despise this recording. Do NOT get it, whatever you do. Rübsam turns nice little fast lively Bach pieces into slow, dreary, Romaniticized, rubato-filled MESSES! And I don't mean "masses" in French!

Juozas Rimas Jr. said:

Rubsam's jazzy wavy style can be very attractive when you first hear it ("wow, I didn't think Bach could be played like this!") but having listened to more of his performances (that are played in the same style all the time), you'll probably hate the boring over-rubato'ed roller-coaster ride that this performer is offering you.

Ben McGuire said:

With all due, respect, I beg to differ. I hope you will suspend judgement temporarily and allow Mr. Rubsam to work his magic. This will take some patience, and may involve a certain amount of pain. But consider Glen Gould: we have to get past the ideosyncracies to appreciate the poetry. And it turns out to be well worth the trouble!

I do grant that you will be startled at first by the rubato. The first track is not too unusual, since it seems appropriate to treat this as an overture in the french style. But the second is an Allemande: how could one dance to such a sporadic, unpredictable rhythm? The danger is that you will stop listening after this track. But I really hope you don't because there are delights, insights, and deep unsuspected joys to come in these performances.

We live in an age of historical instrument recordings, where standards based on original performance parameters have ruled for over a generation. We are grateful for these blessings, but they are not the whole of music. Historians do not give us the soul of music, only the cold facts. The inner heart of music is something that always takes us by surprise, we have no right to expect it. And despite the millions of words written by musicologists, the painstaking efforts of craftsmen to reproduce ancient instruments, the endless flow of unedited urtexts, and the opinions of the critics and academicians, only the performer can touch our hearts.

Wolfgang Rubsam is a unique talent, a world class musician, and a superb interpreter of J.S.Bach on the piano! If you can accept some initial discomfort (paradigm shifts are usually unsettling at first), you will find incomparable moments of depth and inspiration here. As you travel through this world, I believe you will experience the peace, the joy, the spirit of the master, of Bach himself.

Fortunately, you don't have to take my word for it, since you can hear 30 minutes of this CD (the first one minute of each track) on Amazon. Amazingly, this is almost half the record (since these are all short pieces). This will give you a complete understanding of everything I have said here ... without even buying the disc! It may take some perseverence, but if you really listen all the way through (remember, the beginning is a shock), you will be well rewarded, far beyond your expectations.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Alex Temple
  • Juozas Rimas Jr
  • Ben McGuire
Date First Submitted:11/28/1996