- The Industrious Herr Bach [Recommended Recordings]
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Johann Sebastian Bach
Recommended Recordings

Bach 2000
(Various artists)
If you really want to beef up your classical collection, get "Bach 2000," Teldec's 153-CD box set featuring the entirety of Bach's output. Over 1,000 works are represented here, by artists such as Nicholas Harnoncourt, Gustav Leonhardt, Thomas Zehetmair, Il Giardino Armonico, and organist Ton Koopman. Also available in a cantata-free edition!

Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, Orchestral Suite No. 2
(Emmanuel Pahud )
Flautist Emmanuel Pahud and fellow members of the Berlin Philharmonic deliver a surprisingly authentic recording of Bach flute works on this recital disc. Using modernized instruments with gut strings and alternate tunings, they create a nice blend of old-meets-new sounds. Pahud and crew are in top form on the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, but on the challenging solo Partita in A Minor, he's simply stunning.

Bach: Cello Suites
(Pablo Casals)
Even after nearly 70 years, Pablo Casals's performances of Bach's six cello suites are still considered definitive. The EMI-released set (you know, the one with the classic close-up cover of Casals exhaling his pipe smoke) was essential for any record library, but this new remastering on indie label Pearl has even better sound and includes Casals's encore pieces. These are romantic, gorgeous performances.

Bach: Complete Cantatas (Vol. 9)
(Midori Suzuki, Robin Blaze, et al.; Bach Collegium Japan; Masaaki Suzuki, conductor)
Although there are various competing projects to record the entire set of Bach's cantatas underway as we approach the millennium, don't overlook the extraordinary music-making of this series featuring Japan's Bach Collegium under the sensitive and beautifully balanced direction of Masaaki Suzuki. This installment in the series features Bach's jubilant cantata no. 76, "Die Himmel erzahlen."

Bach: Easter Oratorio; Magnificat
(Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir; Ton Koopman, conductor)
Many Bach lovers consider the "St. Matthew Passion" to be his towering masterpiece, but the "Easter Oratorio" is rich in exuberant invention and traverses a stirring musical journey. It picks up of course where the sorrowful lullaby at the end of the "Passion" left off and awakens an overwhelming spirit of joy.

Bach: Goldberg Variations
(Murray Perahia, piano)
Perhaps the greatest performance of all to be released in 2000 is Murray Perahia's insightful disc of Bach's "Goldberg Variations," a CD that finally gives Glenn Gould a run for his money. Here, Perahia gives each variation plenty of lyricism and personality, but he makes sure that Bach's wonderful music gets the spotlight.

Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 & 2
(Rosalyn Tureck, piano)
Rosalyn Tureck's famed 1953 recordings of Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" are finally back in print (after being unavailable since the '70s) and boasting an improved sound. For those used to the Glenn Gould school of Bach, this disc may come as a surprise. There are few quirks, grunts, or erratic moments--just straightforward, mesmerizing Bach.

Bach: Violin Sonatas
(Andrew Manze, violin; Richard Egarr, harpsichord; Jaap ter Linden, cello and gamba)
Andrew Manze is undoubtedly one of the world's greatest violinists, and each new recording is a musical revelation. On his latest, we get Bach's six seldom-heard violin sonatas along with extra movements and a bonus--Manze's take on the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Novelties aside, this is another great Manze disc.

Coffee/Peasant Cantatas
(Failoni Chamber Orchestra; Mátyás Antál, conductor)
Experience the coffee cantata in all of its glory with this wonderful CD.

St. Matthew Passion
(Adele Addison, Betty Allen, Collegiate Chorale, and the New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, conductor)
Leonard Bernstein isn't usually thought of as a conductor of Baroque music, for all of his protean scope. Yet this tailored 1960s account of Bach's overwhelming score betrays all the intense power of communication and personal empathy that are associated with the best of Bernstein's podium legacy. A bonus track includes one of his insightful discussions of the musical drama of the Passion.


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