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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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on February 19, 2003
First I want to quote this from the liner notes: " Features of the 1751 print suggest that, insofar as performance was part of the design, Bach thought of the Art of the Fugue as being for keyboard, but it is extremely unlikely that he would have envisaged a complete performance of such a long work in an instrumental monochrome and centered on a single tonality(D minor)"
Well I'm really happy to inform you all that the work sounds perfect on keyboard (as the superb perfomances by Leonhardt on harpsichord and Marie-Claire Alain on organ well demonstrate), and it definitely does not work with Neville Marriner's orchestration. What is the point of hearing one contrapunctus performed on two harpsichords, the next one with strings and winds, and then again the next one on organ?? Is it supposed to make the sound less monochrome? less "boring"? I mean this is not an Offenbach overture or something, is someone trying to make it more "entertaining"? To me it sounds plain stupid.
If you want to here these works performed decently, go to the ones mentioned above( Julliard has also a nice performance on string quartet; Leonhardt is wonderful for the Offering); if you are looking for some entertaining music budget priced, Das Kunst der Fuge is a VERY wrong choice.
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on May 29, 2003
This cd is best for those of us who are unfamiliar with Bach's music and want to get to know these two works and buy an affordable cd at the same time. As a general introduction it is great and very educational--the art of fugue is played on various instruments to drive home the fact that the music was never scored for specific instruments. Each contrapunctus is given a decent and fair showing.
Marriner however seems to be most comfortable when he is conducting lighter, airier stuff like Mozart divertimentos (some of the best mozart around is conducted my marriner in my opinion) Bach is a little above him i think.You can tell that he has deep respect for this music by the way he handles it--but i think he has trouble finding the soul or emotion of this music. Put another way he demonstrates masterfully the intellectual side of Bach, but fails at capturing the emotion and feeling of Bach. And dont tell me that there is no emotion to Bach's music--because i know better having heard some of his other pieces.
To be fair though it should be said that The Art of Fugue and to some extent the Musical Offering are two of Bach's most abstract and "conceptual" works so it is no wonder that one might have trouble capturing all its dimensions on cd. I have difficulty sitting through this cd (although i have done it several times) at times the performance comes off as being a little dry and rote--almost as if one was playing an exercise or an etude rather than a work proper. It is best in small pieces. The fugal nature of the piece can at times make one think one is hearing the same thing over and over due to the slower tempo and conducting style of Marriner. In reality however there are many different things going on in each fugue despite the fact that they are all based on one theme. Close listening to the cd helps to develop a sensitive ear as you try try to distinguish what is going on in each fugue that sets it apart from the others (analysis).
As a final word, this cd is not bad-it s a good showing, but its definitely not the best perf either.In my opinion-this cd is best heard in small chunks. Its great if you want an introduction to this work, its great if you want to save money. Its great if you like your bach simple-- except for two harpsichords it doesnt use period instruments--but it does use period performance (no vibrato, small ensemble) Its also great if you like to "dissect" your Bach as you hear it and see the analytical side to this music. If however you would like to hear the emotional side to these very intellectual and somewhat abstract pieces try the Munchinger. Also do not miss the Stardust Quartet interpretation on recorders--it sounds as if it were a totally different piece--very airy and beautiful rather than heavy and concrete.
In general i would say if you dont know these two pieces by Bach start with this and once you feel comfortable and familiar with the piece check out some of the other interpretations and see how they differ and which you like best.
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on September 21, 2001
This CD set comes from some tapes recorded during the '70s, and the audiophile will quickly hear this. In spite of this hiccup, the depth of the performances are striking.
In his last years, J.S. Bach wrote much of his music for the sheer joy of creating mathematically delightful pieces, hence the endless variations and inversions of the themes from "Art of the Fugue" and "Musical Offering." Some evidence suggests that J.S.B. didn't care too much whether or not the music was, in fact, performed. I think he would be struck by this performance, especially, of the 6-part ricercar - one of the most complex and repeatedly listenable compositions ever put to paper by man.
This is not necessarily a collection of music that bears constant listening to from start to finish as if it were a number of movements of a larger piece. Pick and chose your diamonds from the drawer, and leave a few for another day.
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on January 18, 2000
It was the music on this disc -- originally available as separate boxed sets of vinyl records -- along with ASMF's Brandenburgs that really sparked my interest in barque music in general, and Bach in particular. Though, 30 years later, the performance sounds a little dark, slow and dense to ears accustomed to airier historically-informed performances, it nevertheless has a richness and warmth that you simply won't hear on any other recording of these two works.
This is absolute music, composed without any specific instrument in mind. The Offereing and the Art of Fugue have been equally successfully performed on the organ, harpsichord, piano, and by string ensemble. The ASMF succeeds in presenting them in ALL of these contexts, except the piano.
The performance is first-rate, if a little reserved.
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on May 22, 2001
I realize I'm in the distinct minority here, but I think this is a fantastic recording of the Art of Fugue and the Musical Offering. Part of me really likes the slower tempos, maybe because it allows the listener to appreciate the depth and real genius that goes into writing such complicated works. Bach was nothing if not an original... During his day, he was not recognized as the brilliant composer that he was. Instead, he was seen mostly as being old and worn out. Today, we can look back on his music and realize how wrong some people were. Here is a composer for which there is no equal, and I don't think there ever will be. These two pieces contain some of his most intellectual music, but it's still intoxicatingly beautiful to listen to. At this price, grab it up.
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on December 4, 2002
Contrapuntal Master shows his stuff with this masterful offering from Sir Neville and his Academy of St. Martin.
He demonstrates repeatedly his ability to not only express extremely difficult compositions to play, but at the same time delightful sounds to captivate the listener.
Especially attractive is Contrapunctus 4, and all that have the organ.
The Musical Offering of history fame is well presented here, with fine harpsichord, finished off by a grand riercar.
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on December 27, 2000
I think Marriner and the Academy are best suited for other types of pieces. Mozart, Haydn, these are the kinds of composers that seem more appropiate. Still, this is a good recording in my opinion. However, if someone is looking for the definitive recording of "The Art of Fugue", I highly recommend the one by Musica Antiqua Koln conducted by Reinhard Goebel; it's a true masterpiece. MAK and Goebel perform Bach like few, and this CD by Archiv is truly wonderful.
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on December 9, 2000
Once upon a time, I had a 33rpm vinyl done by I've no idea who. It was at a speedy tempo, one JSB would have loved. A very bright and cheery piece.
This version, alas, is reminiscent of a New Orleans funeral procession. That is, the part headed to the cemetary. The good versions of Musical Offering sound more like the happy music played on the way home from the cemetary.
Skip this album. Look for a non-somnambulistic conductor.
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