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JS Bach Musikalisches Opfer; Goldberg Variations – Aria; Goldberg Canons; Trio Sonata in G

Masaaki Suzuki; Members of Bach Collegium Japan (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

JS Bach
Musikalisches Opfer; Goldberg Variations – Aria; Goldberg Canons; Trio Sonata in G
Masaaki Suzuki (harpsichord); Members of Bach Collegium Japan
BIS BIS-2151 (hybridCD/SACD) 72:12 mins

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The visit that 62-year-old Bach paid to Frederick the Great in 1747 was probably the most celebrated and newsworthy event of the composer’s life. It resulted in the Musical Offering in which he demonstrated his supreme and unrivalled mastery of the art of counterpoint. The beautifully engraved work – consisting of ten canons, two fugues or ricercars, and a trio sonata – takes as its fundament a subject allegedly provided by Frederick himself. Upon this Bach created music intended both to instruct and to entertain, but above all, as Michael Marissen’s accompanying essay remarks, to glorify God.

Broadly speaking, Masaaki Suzuki and members of the Bach Collegium follow the order of the pieces as they appear in the original 1747 print. They have chosen, however, to highlight the importance of the canons by placing the numbered ones at the beginning and by concluding the work with the Canon perpetuus rather than the trio sonata which here precedes it. The remainder of the programme consists of the 14 short Canons on the bass line of the ‘Aria’ of the Goldberg Variations, and the Trio Sonata in G major, BWV 1038. Suzuki himself takes centre stage as solo harpsichordist in the two Ricercars of the Musical Offering, and he is joined in the trio sonatas by flute, violin and cello which play in varying configurations, sometimes with an additional viola in several of the canons belonging to the Musical Offering. All attain the accomplished standards which we have come to expect of this ensemble, the contrapuntal textures enhanced by the translucent recorded sound.

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Nicholas Anderson