Bachs Königin - Holland Baroque
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186971
Classical - Orchestral
Bach: Organ works (transcribed for orchestra by Judith & Tineke Steenbrink)
CREATIVE INTERPRETATIONS OF BAROQUE MONUMENTS
Holland Baroque presents Bachs Königin, an album full of masterful organ works by J.S. Bach, transcribed for the orchestra by Judith and Tineke Steenbrink. These creative interpretations add unique colours and a fresh spirit to baroque monuments. Here is yet another chance to enjoy Bach’s genius.
Holland Baroque is an original and innovative baroque orchestra that approaches baroque repertoire through a fresh and contemporary approach, with a focus on improvisation and collaborations with outstanding artists from different traditions. Bachs Königin is their fifth Pentatone album, after having released Minne (2022) Brabant 1653, Polonoise (both 2021) and Silk Baroque (2019) with the label.
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- Johann Sebastian Bach: Das Orgelbüchlein - Chorale Preludes, BWV 615 In dir ist Freude
- Johann Sebastian Bach: Das Orgelbüchlein - Chorale Preludes, BWV 617 Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf
- Johann Sebastian Bach: Fantasia and Fugue for Organ, BWV 542 in G minor 'Great'
- Johann Sebastian Bach: Organ Concerto, BWV 592 in G major (after Ernst)
- Johann Sebastian Bach: Organ Concerto, BWV 974 in D minor (after A Marcello)
- Johann Sebastian Bach: Passacaglia for Organ, BWV 582 in C minor
- Johann Sebastian Bach: Schübler Chorales - Chorale Preludes, BWV 648 Meine Seele erhebet den Herren'
- Johann Sebastian Bach: Trio Sonata, BWV 526 in C minor
- Johann Sebastian Bach: Trio Sonata, BWV 529 in C major
Review by Adrian Quanjer - February 13, 2023
It is argued that Bach’s best compositions are those written for the Queen of all Instruments, the organ. We may or may not agree, but the fact is that nonetheless the orchestral arrangements by Holland Baroque are a feast for the ear, the brain, and the soul. Not least because all are ‘homemade’ by Judith & Tineke Steenbrink, both members of the orchestra, playing the first violin and the organ respectively. Their notion of each musician’s capabilities must have given them an advantage for a personalized musical adaptation of the original. In other words: For Bach, the organ may have been the 'Königin' for his most inventive output, for us, the audience, the sisters Steenbrink are here the 'Queens' of all other instruments.
To give an example: Bach’s Trio Sonatas were composed as study material for his pupils to learn how to handle three inputs independently. The ingenious way Steenbrink & Steenbrink have constructed the three parts in an integrated orchestral framework, especially the pedal part (contrabass), is superb, creating a homogeneous sound picture that lifts their unmistakable ‘tour de force’ over and above any other arrangement of this Sonata I know of.
But even if arrangements are of an extraordinarily high caliber, at the end of the day it’s the musicians that are responsible for the result. Musicianship, as we have come to expect from these forces, is sublimely on display. I was impressed by each individual player’s quality, but it was the combined ‘joy’ emanating from this group that made my day. And what’s more, they haven’t given in to modern fashion to speed up tempi as much as possible, turning each Allegro into Presto (and sometimes even Prestissimo!). The ensemble projects itself as young and refreshing, but here we get, and not only for the seniors among us, traditional Bach with an eye for detail and musicality as it should be!
There are many Bach arrangements around, even for the most unusual instruments and/or combinations, like an accordion playing selected preludes and fugues from Das Wohltemperierte Klavier : Bach: Das wohltemperiete Akkordeon - Miki, or the Goldberg Variations in an arrangement for 5 saxophones and 4 double basses: Bach: Goldberg Variations - Shimizu, Saxophonettes! The latter may be a bit extreme, but Bach’s legacy is so strong that almost any arrangement will do. However, some are better than others. I have several Holland Baroque releases in my library, and I like them all (and you may be tempted to check them out), but this one, despite being modestly advertised as ‘Bach’s Organ Works for Orchestra’, gives us what could easily have been labeled a newly discovered set of ‘Orchestral Arrangements of Organ Works’ by …. JSB. It is that well done.
In terms of sound, many have noticed that Pentatone has lost its vanguard status. Surely for commercial reasons. But if a new release sees the light in a sound quality we were once used to we must welcome and encourage it, which I’ll herewith gladly do. With ‘old and experienced hands’ like Carl Schuurbiers producing & editing and Jean-Marie Geijsen (Polyhymnia International B.V.) engineering, Holland Baroque sounds as good as it gets. listening in pleasingly warm surround I hugely enjoyed it.
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.
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