Comparing Performances

As our listing of Bach performances grows, it is interesting to compare their interpretation, production values and of course, the performers. Not surprisingly, I wrestle with the choice of performances to include. Even when limited by the availability of video performances on Youtube or Vimeo, I’m overwhelmed by the abundance of performances of popular compositions.

For example, here are three performances of the Brandenburg Concerto No 4 (BWV1049). Which do you prefer?

  • Is the Freiburg Orchestra a bit “staid” and serious?
  • What do you think of Shunske Sato’s performance on the NBS version?
  • Have you ever seen four recorders as in the Voices of Music version (from 6:45)?

Would love to hear from you -(email mh at – Marius

A 15 year old recording by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (more info):

A recent Netherlands Bach Society recording (more info):

A US ensemble, Voices of Music (more info)

The Next Step

I’m building this site to “scratch an itch”, making it easier to find, explore and compare performances of J.S. Bach’s works. Just in case anyone is watching and wondering why the listing hasn’t moved much since starting it a bit over a month ago , it’s because I’ve been focused on the “back-end”.

I really do hope to have a ‘complete’ listing of 1000’s of performances here eventually, so it makes sense to spend a bit of time constructing that properly. The current listing is just a prototype “to play with”. Undoubtedly, the site will evolve over time, but there will be a first “real” version live in the coming week.

In the mean time, here is a documentary by Bruno Monsaingeon about David Fray’s Bach to keep us entertained. Not everyone’s cuppa tea, but interesting “in the mix”. Enjoy…

By the way, it is disgraceful that the individual musicians from the Deutche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen were not identified in the credits of this documentary.

How far do we go?

My previous post, regarding a comparison between Glenn Gould and Lars Ulrik Mortensen, set off a bit of a discussion regarding the extent that we’ll list alternative performances. For example, it is easy finding quite a range of alternative renditions of BWV565 (Toccata and Fugue in D minor). Some with historic or artistic significance, others interesting or even cute…

For example:

  1. The Stokowski orchestral version.
  2. Karl Richter’s (organ) recording.
  3. Jacques Loussier’s improvisation.
  4. Marcelina Dąbek, promising young harpist.
  5. Robert Tiso’s “glass harp“.
  6. Desmond Chan’s Marimba version.
  7. And this version of a couple dancing on keys in a music shop.

For me, the first three are no-brainers, they offer a range of interpretation of Bach’s work and I’ll add them to the listing soon. The other four represent varying levels of expertise of the performers, but offer no new insight into the compositions. But then… that’s only my opinion. And of course I enjoyed and admired young Marcelina’s Harp version!

By the way, I don’t have comments turned on, but appreciate any feedback by email (mh at coomans dot com)

Directing from the keyboard

It’s fun comparing performances, and sometimes finding similarities in unexpected ways. I’ve been a fan of Glenn Gould for a long time. Not fashionable and definitely not part of the “original music” scene. His mannerisms behind the keyboard are well documented. I just added a performance of BWV54 , “Widerstehe doch der Sünde”, conducted from behind the piano by Glenn Gould:

Now have a look at this performance of BWV54, conducted from the keyboard by Lars Ulrik Mortensen.


Glenn Gould style re-incarnated?

Swinging Bach

As much as I love Bach on original instruments, there are so many other ways to enjoy Bach. In this case, “live” from the market place in Leipzig.

So many great musicians, but not sure where and how to include their work here.