For another view of this recording, fresh when it was released in 2001-2002, check out this page at the Bach Cantatas site. This recording was the first of several "Bachiana" issues from MAK; they earlier recorded a CD from the Alt Bach Archiv in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
Johann Ludwig Bach
Suite in G
- air 2
This suite is a very structured work. MAK is fully into their masculine, full-blooded sound here. The style isn't lost on me, but in dances like the Gavotte, a more tender approach could have worked perfectly well. The final dance, a Bourée, is a simple piece, for sure, but you could imagine that it was used (for reals!) as a dance number. I only wish we'd been teased with a run using solo instruments on some of the dances, in comparison to the full-tilt string ensemble with oboes.
Sonata "a cinque" in C
Sonata "a cinque" in F With these two pieces, we step back in time. The violin tone is rich, as we'd ever expect from MAK, and their character isn't too far removed from Biber's string pieces, except here, there's less fantasy and invention. It makes me wonder if the piece couldn't be helped with improvisation? How would an ensemble like L'Arpeggiata approach something like this? The second sonata has more promise at the start, but the most interesting thing is the turns of harmony, which aren't completely tonal, in a more modern sense. The music makes me think it's background for something else, some sort of dramatic performance, perhaps?
Johann Ludwig Bach
Concerto in D This concerto is for two violins, and is a breath of fresh, modern air compared to the H. Bach. In a three-movement design, it's light enough, but when the full ensemble comes in, the never-ending masculine full-tilt sound is on full-volume. I'm not one to often be critical of MAK, but this one in particular could have benefitted from a more subtle treatment. The solo sections are likewise continuously playing at the same volume and intensity.
Johann Christoph Bach
Aria Eberliniana pro dormente Camillo This one is the chance for Léon Berben to shine; for solo harpsichord, it's a 16 minute aria with variation. I could very well imagine it written for the clavichord, and not the harpsichord. It makes us wonder, perhaps, how influential this piece was to JSB. It reminds me more of, say, variations on La Folia than, say, the Goldberg Variations.
Battaglia - anno 1659 This piece, first off, sounds like it is treated well with the swashbuckling, masculine style MAK has chosen for this release. Wilche wasn't a master of the melody, but there is plenty of fantasy in this sonata for strings. The first violin is featured the most.
Signr. (Singer/Signore) Pagh
Sonata & Fantaisie in G minor This is my favorite piece of the set; it perhaps sounds most like a string sonata by Johann Schmelzer. The violin is given its share of challenges, but the by this track, Goebel isn't as much of a dynamic showman that the piece requires. The solo comes off slightly trying to us, although the style does too carry just a tad of charm. Charm? Or the delicious sound of one of Goebel's violins?
Johann Sebastian Bach
*Kommt, eilet und laufet BWV 249 This is labeled as a "Concerto," but you'd be better off calling it the opening to Bach's Easter Oratorio. It's cut from the same cloth as many of his cantata sinfonias. I dare say, the brash sound we'd been treated to in all the previous tracks is gone, save for the timpani. More smoothness and grace is on display. But this track, like the lot, could have sparkled with better sound engineering. While I applaud MAK for recording this set of Bach family music discovered only in the first half of the twentieth century, the music is not of equal quality, nor are the performances of the highest. I know it's scary recording music that's pretty much unknown to the world. There's got to be some pressure to record what ends up being "less personal" and more straight off the score. I'm just not confident that this recording got the level of attention to detail that this award-winning ensemble was typically known for.