Various Artists

The Only Bach Album You Will Ever Need

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Is this, as advertised, "the only Bach album you'll ever need"? Leave aside the fact that just one really isn't going to cover the infinite genius of Bach, and concede that this two-disc set includes pieces that have shown up in recent films like The Aviator (the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565. Note the fact that the booklet contains individual introductions to each piece, and forgive inane thoughts like "it's the soundtrack of the music of your life." And agree that the selection of pieces covers most of the major genres of Bach's music. The answer is still no. Not only is this not the only Bach album you'll ever need, it's not even a good first pick. These selections are recycled from the Vanguard label's Bach recordings of the 1960s and 1970s. Some of them are not unmusical, but many (such as the Vienna State Opera Orchestra's Suite for Orchestra No. 1 in C, BWV 1066) were dated even when they were made. Basically the performances go back in sound to the first generation of musicians who performed Bach during the large-scale rediscovery of Baroque music after World War II -- they were better than hearing Bach conducted by Leopold Stokowski, but we've come a long way, baby. Even this could be overlooked in favor of getting some Bach into people's car stereos, but there's also the remastering -- if indeed any occurred. The sonic lurch from selection to selection is jarring, and the sound is typical the worst results obtained in transferring old LPs of moderate fidelity to CDs. It's not a pleasure to here. Deutsche Grammophon's Everybody's Bach release, despite its bizarre cover art, is preferable, and doesn't make the market-limiting claim that it's the only Bach album you'll ever need.

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