Recommended, With a Couple of Reservations
Classicalfan | Reston, VA USA | 11/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the fourth Bach CD I've gotten in this series and the first one that I would rate as having less than a perfect score of five. The other three Bach CDs I have in this series are "Bach for Book Lovers," "Bach for Bedtime," and "Bach for Breakfast." The first two are intended to be for quiet times and relaxation and are similar to the "Bach for Relaxation" and "Bach for Meditation" CDs I have, to which I would also give a score of 5.
This CD gets a score of 4 instead of 5 because of 3 of the 17 selections, especially 2 of them. Track 8 is the famous Prelude in C major from the Well-Tempered Clavier, transcribed for harp and performed by Marisa Robles. Part of the beauty of individual performances of music is the unique quality of each performer's interpretation of that music; that can certainly include tempo, especially with Bach's music, where it is not completely certain exactly at what tempo he would have performed it himself. However, I have heard this particular composition performed by several different musicians, including F. Gulda on the "Bach for Book Lovers" CD and Sviatoslav Richter on his multi-CD set of the complete WTC. Moreover, I have heard it performed on piano and guitar and would normally welcome a performance on the harp. But Robles' performance is at a faster tempo than these others and sounds a bit rushed, not leaving one with the leisure to enjoy the beauty of the melody.
Two other less-than-satisfying tracks are the back-to-back extracts from Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. I have the complete 2-CD set of these Sonatas and Partitas recorded by Henryk Szeryng and, aside from preferring Szeryng's performance to Gidon Kremer's, I find these two selections out of place on this CD. This compilation is supposedly for persons having a few friends over for a barbecue. While that may seem like an over-literal interpretation of the CD title, even the CD booklet includes three barbecue recipes: (1) Sebastian's Special Sauce; (2) Tender & Tangy Baby Bach Ribs; (3) Branden-Burger.
The partitas and sonatas for solo violin have a great and timeless beauty, but one that is generally stark and intense. Not that this CD should only have "Bach-lite" on it. In fact, track #13, Contrapunctus No. 9, from Art of the Fugue, and track #14, Fugue in G minor "The Great Fugue" BWV 542, are masterpieces of Baroque depth and complexity. At the same time, these performances by Neville Marriner and the ASMF and by the Suttgart Chamber Orchestra are engaging as well as complex, and draw the listener in. Such is not the case for the two solo violin tracks performed by Kremer, which ask for more intense concentration from the listener.
At least the Bouree from Partita No.1 has an upbeat, optimistic tone that is consistent with the other tracks on the CD; one might conceivably hear and enjoy it at a barbecue. But the next track, the Preludio from Partita No.3 for Solo Violin, seems more appropriate for a barbecue cut short by gathering storm clouds. This is a beautiful but somber piece that doesn't fit in well with the other 16 selections on this CD. Its mood is heavy, deep, and intense, and its beauty is dark and melancholy. One can only imagine what the people at Philips were thinking when they decided to put a selection like this on a CD entitled "Bach for Barbecue."
The peformances of the other selections by I musici, Pepe Romero, Andras Schiff, and the great Belgian violinist, Arthur Grumiaux, are wonderful. Recommended, with a couple of reservations."