Bach’s “Erbarme dich, mein Gott”

This week we’ll explore music inspired by Good Friday and Easter, both sacred and secular. We’ll start in one of the most sublime and powerful corners of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion: the alto aria, Erbarme dich, mein Gott (“Have mercy Lord, My God, for the sake of my tears”). In the drama, this aria reflects Peter’s solitary heartache in the garden after he denies knowing Jesus three times. It’s set in a lilting 12/8 …

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New Release: Rafal Blechacz Plays Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach is the simple but fitting title of a new album by 31-year-old Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz. The recording, released in February, features Bach’s Italian Concerto, Partita Nos. 1 and 3, Fantasia and Fugue In A Minor BWV 944, and the seldom-heard Four Duets BWV 802-805. (Blechacz offers this description of the Duets). British pianist Myra Hess’ arrangement of Jesus, Joy Of Man’s Desiring rounds out the disk. Bach’s Italian Concerto in F Major, published in 1735 as the first half or …

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New Release: Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, John Eliot Gardiner

Each time we explore Bach’s music we feel as if we have traveled great distances to, and through, a remote but entrancing soundscape. -Sir John Eliot Gardiner An exciting new recording of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion was released last Friday. Sir John Eliot Gardiner leads the Monteverdi Choir (an ensemble he founded in 1964), the Trinity Boys Choir, the English Baroque Soloists, and a cast which includes James Gilchrist as the Evangelist and Stephan Loges as Jesus. The …

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Remembering Heinrich Schiff

The world-renowned Austrian cellist and conductor Heinrich Schiff passed away on Friday. He was 65. Schiff leaves behind an extensive recorded legacy, including cello concertos of Vivaldi and Haydn, the Brahms Double Concerto with violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann, and the Shostakovich Cello Concertos, conducted by Maxim Shostakovich (the composer’s son). In 1971, he gave one of the earliest performances of the haunting Cello Concerto by twentieth century Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski. Heinrich Schiff will be remembered, also, for his spectacular 1985 recording of J.S. …

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New Release: Murray Perahia Plays Bach’s French Suites

Pianist Murray Perahia’s newest album features J.S. Bach’s six French Suites, written between 1722 and 1725. This is Perahia’s first release on the Deutsche Grammophon label, following a 43-year relationship with Sony Classics and its predecessor, Columbia Masterworks. In the recording’s trailer, he describes the French Suites as “Bach on the highest level”- “delicate” and infused with French mannerisms such as accents on second beats of the Sarabande. Each suite is a collection of varied Baroque dance …

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Rachel Podger’s Recent Bach Exploits

Last week, English violinist, conductor, and Baroque specialist Rachel Podger released a recording of J.S. Bach’s The Art of Fugue with members of Brecon Baroque, the dynamic ensemble she founded in 2007. You can hear an excerpt from the recording here. This is the latest in a series of acclaimed Bach recordings Podger has made on the Channel Classics label. The Art of Fugue was Bach’s monumental final work. The fourteen fugues and four canons grow …

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Mark Kaplan’s Solo Bach Recording

If you’re looking for rare treasures in the form of recent classical music releases, try hanging around your local classical radio host. A few days ago, as the announcers at my local public radio station were clearing their archives of duplicate promotional recordings, I ran across Mark Kaplan’s March release of J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin on the Bridge Records label. Compare this recording to the equally wonderful period …

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