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.

Emerson Quartet on Bach's "Art of Fugue"

CD#750 in my collection (I save the big, round numbers for important works, such as Bach's Kunst der Fuge) is this CD: the Emerson Quartet performing Bach's ultimate work. At over 80-minutes, and released in 2003, it has no doubt been popular. Just read the gushing reviews at Amazon.com. As I listen now, the d-minor phrases and countersubjects companions with me in my listening room, I read some of these comments from other purchasers... one wrote about it being (or sounding) "smooth," an analysis I agree with. Their tone is smooth, rich... expresso gelato, and all of that. And of all the recordings I own, they match closest that of the Julliard String Quartet, who recorded the work earlier (and whose special, long viola appears in this recording). Yet, I don't share all the ebullient reaction that gives this recording a "5-star" rating. Is it cleanly recorded? Yes. Does the ensemble have a good sound? Yes. Is intonation clear and true? Yes. But I'm sorry, dear Emerson. I have your Beethoven, and have loved your Bartók. But this recording of Bach's best work is awful. The interpretive style is just wrong. I actually prefer the Julliard. As one reviewer (who still awarded them 4 stars, an easy praiser, I guess) said... it lacks passion. If you look closely at baroque vocal lines, on how you phrase a line... you need to do that here. Instead, it is somewhat a more "romantic approach" (with so much vibrato, I'm queasy), but it ignores baroque phrasing and some of the "gooiest" and more intense parts of the music. I think if you want to get a good idea of what AoF is, then... a couple tracks from this recording, mixed with some others, might be worthwhile. Certainly, these are professional, star musicians. No doubt. But their take on Bach is so different than what they historically-informed camp is doing that the ignorance is wholly dissatisfying. I know, some people hate the baroque violins, in contrast. I could live with the instruments, I just want the phrasing to be right, and the vibrato to disappear.

Vivaldi: Concerti per violoncello 1

Un concert pour Mazarin