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Johann Sebastien BACH
A Musical Offering, BWV1079
Canons BWV 1072 - 1078, 1086
14 Canons BWV 1087

Gottfried von der Goltz, Petra Mullejans, Martin Jopp, Daniela Helms, Christian Gosses (Violin / Viola), Karl Keiser (flute), Ekkehard Weber (viola da gamba), Kristin von der Goltz (cello) and Michael Behringer (harpsichord / forte piano (BWV 1079)
Gottfried von der Goltz, Petra Mullejans, Daniela Helms, Christian Gosses (Violin / Viola), Kristin von der Goltz (cello) and Michael Behringer (harpsichord (Canons).
recorded digitally in Zentralsaal Bamberg 12-14 May 1999 (BWV 1078) and Kath, Pfarrkirke Oberried, Briesgau 28th September 1999, (Canons).
Hanssler Edition CD92.133 [57.55]
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This disc is one of the 170 discs in the massive commemorative Hanssler / Bachakademie edition of the complete works of J. S. Bach, prepared and issued over the last year or so, and completed in June 2000. The set is available complete, which can be purchased in various ways, as a one off buy, in groups of discs at a discount, or as single issues. This one is a single disc and contains a major Bach work, supplemented by a collection of canons which are more likely to attract the specialist rather than the average collector. Still it is a good way to introduce relatively obscure pieces to the collector and Hanssler is to be congratulated in issuing us with this very interesting disc.

If I concentrate on the Musical Offering, it is only because this is probably the work which will attract the purchaser more than the canons. The opening ricercare is entrusted to the fortepiano, while the second is on harpsichord. The Canons are then played by various combinations of instruments and the variety that this gives us makes for delightful listening, particularly when the playing of the various musicians is so vital. The choice of instruments is not as free a choice as with, say, the Art of Fugue, as most were specified by the composer. What we have in this issue is the variety afforded the group by swapping harpsichord for fortepiano in various movements. In addition, we have the period instrument timbres, and these all add up to far more than an academic exercise.

The Musical Offering was composed as a result of a request to Bach from the young King Frederik II to present himself to the King. Although Bach was not in the habit of travelling, he visited the King in order presumably not to affect his son C. P. E. Bach who was the King's harpsichordist. One of the reasons for the King wanting to meet Johan Sebastien was to hear him play the King's latest acquisition, the fortepiano. The King supplied Bach with a theme, and Bach improvised fugues on the theme to the King's delight. Not content with just visiting, Bach then wrote A Musical Offering consisting of two Ricercares, a trio sonata and various canons, fugues and inventions for the King.

Other performances of this work have tried different sequences of the various movements of the work, but this recording goes back to the original printing of the score.

With the canons, we enter a different sound picture. Indeed one of them (BWV 1072), I originally wondered if my player had developed a problem as the theme (a very short one) is played over and over again and it sounded more like a "repeating groove" - very unusual. Nevertheless, a very stimulating issue.


John Phillips


John Phillips

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