Bookspan writes, “The celebrated Chaconne from the D Minor Partita represents one of the highest peaks of Bach’s creation in this medium.” The medium to which he refers is unaccompanied violin, specifically, the three sonatas and three partitas for violin. One of Bookspan’s favorites is the recording made by Jascha Heifetz. A current reissue on the RCA label is a wonderful two-CD set that included not only Bach’s Chaconne, but also the violin concerti by Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius as well as the Scottish Fantasy by Bruch, and works by Glazunov and Gershwin. For a different take on this masterpiece, try pianist Hélène Grimaud‘s fantastic 2009 recording of Bach’s music on the Deutsche Grammophon label.
Bookspan found the recording of Bach’s Magnificat made by the renowned Bach specialist, conductor Karl Richter, to be a worthy choice and I can also recommend it without hesitation. Though the ensemble consists of modern instruments and the chorus is large, the performance is first-rate. The current reissue includes a fine recording of the Magnificat, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, the Saint Matthew Passion, and what is in my opinion an even more important piece than the Magnificat, Bach’s Mass in B Minor. If you simply must have a recording of Bach’s Magnificat played on period instruments, try the Harmonia Mundi 2005 recording from Philippe Herreweghe, or the 2006 release on the Coro label led by conductor Harry Christophers and featuring the sublime choral work of The Sixteen.
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Each month Kent Teeters reviews masterpieces highlighted in Martin Bookspan’s book, 101 Masterpieces of Music and Their Composers, and provides his own recommendation for a modern recording. Review this article and more at capradio.org/classical.
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