I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Keller Quartet - Art of Fugue

It should be no secret that my favorite work by Bach is his ultimate composition, Die Kunst der Fuge, written-out contrapuntal fantasies in various complexities. What starts out as a simple phrase later gets turned into puzzles so fantastic that studying the score is necessary. Of course, with no score, the music still sounds to our ears like glistening spun sugar might look to our eyes. It is also no secret that (in my opinion) the best recording of Bach's Kunst is the one made in 1984 by Musica Antiqua, Köln. And it's not that the best can't be out-done, but this recording by the Keller-Quartett is not up to the same standard. But I nevertheless still enjoy listening to it. Keller play the fugues as a string quartet. MAK played them as such, but also with movements with harpsichord. Bach never tells us, and I'm not sure Bach was done yet. He may, like with the Musical Offering, later have specified instruments. Or maybe not. That simply adds more drama to the work, the unknowns that we all wish we did--know. Bach: Art of Fugue on ECM New Series Keller play the fugues with no string vibrato. Some say they are emulating baroque strings. I am not sure what their intent is, but I like this style of playing. Some have complained that the recording was too-closely miked, others, that the acoustic was too wet. I find no problem with the recording. If we hear people, it only adds a human dimension to a recording. The division of importance among parts, for the most part, is okay here, there are a few sections where I wish one part rose above (or under) the rest with more prominence. This is something Goebel and friends do with penache. My biggest complaint is the lack of passion. It's seemingly what makes better recordings, where the flavor (and in this case, the flavor of dance) is embraced by the performer and "pushed" in the performance. But after a few fugues here and there, it sounds as if the Keller maybe have removed themselves a bit from the equation. It's just notes playing themselves off a yellowed-page. But, whoops, there's a breath, a scratch... no, humans are there. There are many good things about this recording, but there is one fatal flaw, however, too, and that is the performer's reluctance to put more of themselves into the reading. If their goal was to remove themselves--by emitting vibrato, maintaining a more or less static dynamic throughout, then they have achieved that goal. It makes for good study of this work, but ultimately an album that lays a bit flat. This work shows off in some ways more than any other, Bach's genius. But it is, after all, just music, and "just music" can never live without us. The Keller do better than other quartets, I feel, at their interpretation (Emerson, Julliard), but they might have "sassed" up a few of those contrapuncti here or there, and produced an edge. MAK - proud performers with wide smiles on their faces. Keller - respectful musicians who paint carefully and end the work with straight faces, and a sigh. Nevertheless, I recommend the recording. It's an impetus for a lot of discussion.

Anno 1630: Italian Works

Bach Missae BWV 235, BWV 234