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.

Johann Kuhnau: Biblical Sonatas

#alttext# John Butt records the Biblical Sonatas of Johann Kuhnau, on Harmonia Mundi. Johann Kuhnau is known to baroque fans probably because of one reason: he preceeded Bach as Kapellmeister in Köthen. Bach's art would be compared to this guy who came before him, and history tells us while he wrote some significant works, he was in no way the genius Bach was. Yet, one of his remarkable works are a collection of programmatic pieces for keyboard known as the "Biblical Sonatas," and as the name implies, each one is based on a Bible story. Sounds like great music for family listening while doing Bible readings? John Butt recorded these works on harpsichord, organ, and clavichord at the University of California, Berkeley. The organ used is incredible, it has quite a favorable sound, and includes such baroque niceties such as a cymbal stop (percussive anomalies play almost like windchimes when this stop is open). My favorite of these sonatas is #1, The Battle Between David and Goliath, for nothing else, the opening movement which is a toe-tapper. The chamber organ sounds no less incredible on the fifth movement of sonata 1, a flurry of notes. The final movement of this first sonata. Wow. Includes a bird stop. As I said, quite interesting writing, a very unique organ, and strong playing from Butt that doesn't seem overly practiced. The second movement of the second sonata, "The Melancholy of Saul..." is also a fantastic work of art. Played on the clavichord, a spongy-sounding plucked keyboard instrument used for chamber music, the piece comes to life. The third movement from "The Tomb of Jacob" is likewise an agreeable piece of music, with rhythmic inflections that sound quite modern, 20th century. Butt puts together a strong recital of Kuhnau's best work, and with this release featuring three different instruments, I couldn't recommend it any more highly. I've seen it reissued for cheap, it's worth a good listen. This review first appeared in 2005.

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