J.s. Bach: Musikalisches Opfer

Album cover art for upc 7318599921518
Label: BIS
Catalog: BIS-2151
Format: SACD

Balssa, Emmanuel; Yamaguchi, Yukie; Terakado, Ryo; Suga, Kiyomi; Suzuki, Masaaki

Johann Sebastian Bach’s appearance on 7th May 1747 at the court of Frederick the Great is the best documented event in the composer’s otherwise unglamorous career. During the proceedings, Frederick provided Bach with an exceptionally difficult theme on which to improvise a fugue. The King is said to have been impressed with the improvisation, but Bach himself was less so, and announced that he intended to set the theme to paper ‘in a regular fugue’. Several months later the Musical Offering appeared in print – a collection of 13 pieces in diverse genres: fugues, canons and a trio sonata, all exploiting the ‘Royal Theme’ in various intricate ways. Bach’s published score gives no firm idea about a playing order for the pieces, and in most cases no instrumentation is specified. Furthermore, some of the canons – the so-called ‘riddle canons’ – are very sketchily notated, with just a few notes and some enigmatic clues in Latin. The performers are thus left with an unusual degree of freedom when it comes to the interpretation of the work – a freedom which Masaaki Suzuki, with his colleagues from Bach Collegium Japan, is singularly well-placed to explore.

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