Various Artists

Bach: Greatest Hits

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This disc, one of numerous releases from the Decca-Universal family to follow the reuse-and-recycle ethic, indeed offers 17 snippets that most listeners would rank among J.S. Bach's greatest hits. You've got your Brandenburg Concerto movement with Maurice André on the trumpet, you've got your Air on the G String, you've got your Toccata and Fugue in D minor nicely enough rumbled out by Wolfgang Rübsam. You've got the Prelude in C major (BWV 846), from Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier, over-pedaled for your listening pleasure by Andras Schiff. It's hard to beat Bach as a sheer melodist (a fact too often overlooked), and there's an enjoyable hour of listening conveyed here by Decca's stars of the '70s and '80s. But it won't lead the new Bach listener much beyond itself: it won't help in understanding Bach's religious ideals, his formidable mathematical mind, his awesome way of driving musicians to their limits. Liner notes are restricted to a few sentences and some cartoons, one of which unaccountably deals with the founding of the city of Detroit, MI. Snippets of Bach are better than no Bach at all, it is true. But even the newbie might be advised to shell out a few extra dollars for Decca's own two-CD Essential Bach package, which at least makes you catch your breath at the scope of Bach's achievement.

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