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1949 recording of Bach's "Musical Offering", with conductor Hermann Scherchen leading soloists of the Berlin Radio Symphony in an arrangement written by Swiss organist Roger Vuataz.

Bach, Johann Sebastian
Musikalisches Opfer

Bach, Johann Sebastian: Musikalisches Opfer (Edition Rz)
Label: Edition Rz    
Released in: Germany    

"Falling into the real oddity category is this 1949 recording of Bach's Musical Offering, with conductor Hermann Scherchen leading soloists of the Berlin Radio Symphony in an arrangement written by Swiss organist Roger Vuataz. The Musical Offering is, like the Art of Fugue, a semi-conceptual work, with instrumentation, and even the ordering of sections, only partly specified; it consists of a series of contrapuntal treatments of a theme given to Bach by King Frederick the Great of Prussia.

The work certainly appealed to Scherchen, who spoke of "realizations" rather than interpretations of works and would, one suspects, have been pleased by the current trend toward substantial recastings of compositions. Scherchen's Bach performances in general were unique: his was neither the Romantic Bach of old, nor a harbinger of the incipient historical performance movement. He treated Bach as an intellectual, rather dry modernist, and since the Vuataz arrangement of the Musical Offering takes a similar approach, the recording hangs together.

Vuataz arranges the work for oboe, violin, English horn, viola, cello, and bassoon. Different instruments are used in each movement, with the winds predominating, until all the forces come together for the six-part ricercar at the end. The shifts in timbre are a little distracting just because one has never heard anything quite like them before, but really they're no more extreme than a shift in registration on the organ. The texture clarifies Bach's complex polyphony.

One noteworthy aspect of this release is the expertly remastered 1949 sound, which shows just how good recorded sound got at the end of the 78 rpm era. There isn't a trace of hiss. This is not a pick for those looking for a first Musical Offering, but those fascinated by this major product of Bach's intellect, and interested in its resonances through history, should investigate this disc."-James Manheim, All Music

Related Categories of Interest:

Compositional Forms
Historical Recordings

Get additional information at All Music

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Product Information:

Label: Edition Rz
Catalog ID: ed. Rz 60001
Squidco Product Code: 14236

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 1993
Country: Germany
Packaging: Cardstock foldover
Recorded on January 30th, 1949 in Berlin.


Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin-orchestra

Hermann Scherchen-conductor

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Track Listing:

1. Ricercare A 3, Oboe, Corno Inglese, Fagotto 6:33

2. Canone Perpetuus, Violino, Viola, Violoncello 1:00

3. Canone A 2, Violino I, Violino II 0:30

4. Canone A 32, Violino I, Violino II, Violoncello 1:13

5. Canone Per Motum Contrarium, Oboe, Violino, Viola 1:04

6. Canone Per Tonos, Corno Inglese, Viola, Violoncello 2:32

7. Fuga Canonica, Flauto, Clavicembalo 2:32

8. Canone A 2, Corno Inglese, Fagotto 0:56

9. Canone A 2, Corno Inglese, Fagotto 0:59

10. Canone Per Aungmentationesm, Contrarium Motu, Violino, Corno Inglese, Viola 1:29

11. Canone Perpetuo, Flauto, Violino, Violoncello, Clavicembalo 1:13

12. Canone A 4, Oboe, Violino, Fagotto, Violoncello 2:00

13. Trio (Flauto, Violino, Violoncello, Clavicembalo) - Largo 5:33

14. Trio (Flauto, Violino, Violoncello, Clavicembalo) - Allegro 7:04

15. Trio (Flauto, Violino, Violoncello, Clavicembalo) - Andante 2:44

16. Trio (Flauto, Violino, Violoncello, Clavicembalo) - Allegro 3:32

17. Trio (Flauto, Violino, Violoncello, Clavicembalo) - Largo 7:54