May 2006

Bach - Suites for Orchestra, BWV 1066-1069
I Barocchisti; Diego Fasolis, conductor
ARTS 47649
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD
Released: 2006

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

Bach - Suites for Orchestra, BWV 1066-1069
Bach Collegium Japan; Masaaki Suzuki, conductor
BIS SACD – 1431
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD
Released: 2005

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

by Rad Bennett

I am puzzled when people say they have not switched over to the SACD format because there are few good recordings available. Recordings of the Bach orchestral suites are a case in point. Adding in the earlier release from Telarc with Martin Pearlman and his superb Boston Baroque ensemble [Telarc SACD-60619], there are three performances, and thus recordings, of them that are all first-rate and at the top of any best list, regardless of format.

The Masaaki Suzuki readings on BIS are alert and stylish. The overtures to each suite seem a tad too ceremonial, more like Handel than Bach, yet are not lugubrious. The dances are delightfully played, and performing the second suite with just the solo flute and one string instrument per part gives it a lovely chamber-music sound that is delightfully transparent. Turning to Diego Fasolis on ARTS, one is immersed in performances that seem not only alert, but on fire. Rhythms are sprung in a way that makes one want to dance or sing along. The overtures are grand yet brisk, and the dances sound like real dance music. The playing seems meshed with every player’s heartbeat. Suzuki’s suites are enjoyable; Diego’s are a joyous event.

In multichannel sound, the BIS is uncharacteristically edgy, with a slightly weak bass line. The ARTS recording is rich, full, and transparent, with incredible timpani sound in the D major suites, proper balance for the blazing trumpets in the same pieces, and a correctly balanced, defined bass line. However, if you are only going to listen to the CD layer of the disc, the previously released Telarc recording sounds best in that format.