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Christian Rieger (Harpsichord)
Bach or not Bach?


Bach or not Bach / Early Harpsichord Works - Authenticity Disputed


Concerto for solo harpsichord in G major, BWV 592a [3:05, 2:26, 1:37]
Suite in B flat major, BWV 821 [11:19]
Partita in A major, BWV 832 [11:20]
Prelude & Fugue in A minor, BWV 897 [2:20, 4:15]
Fantasia & Fugue in D minor, BWV 905 [1:36, 2:58]
Fugue in E minor, BWV 956 [4:14]
Fugue in G major, BWV 957 [1:47]
Fugue in A minor, BWV 959 [2:52]
Sarabande & Partita in C major, BWV 990 [23:35]

Christian Rieger (Harpsichord)



CD / TT: 73:43

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Donald Satz wrote (May 20, 2001):
There have been many compositions attributed to Bach which have been proven to not come from his pen and an even greater number where authorship is not clear. Given the prevalence of borrowing, revising, and transcribing from other composers during the Baroque era, absolute proof of ownership can be quite elusive.

It's usually during the time of a big anniversary such as the one we have enjoyed of Bach's that notes from the composer come out of the woodwork and make it to disc. This has happened over the past year with Bach recordings. It's probably best to say that some Bach discs have been issued which contain music associated with Bach; that would include music of dubious ownership, music where Bach made a few changes from the creation of another composer, music of his children that he may have had a part in writing or advising, music that came from Bach's "circle", etc.

Music associated with Bach is the primary theme of a recent Glissando disc performed by Peter Riegger on harpsichord. Glissando must have had a few titles in mind that they couldn't decide among since three can be identified on the front and back covers of the jewel case. We have "Bach or not Bach", "Early Harpsichord Works", and "Early Harpsichord Works . Authenticity Disputed". Whichever title you choose, the music tends to have great vitality and much optimism.

There's no denying that the works on Rieger's disc do not represent prime-time Bach. They do not possess the depth or variety of Bach's greatest compositions, and the technical complexity is relatively low.I tend to think of the music as "Building-Block Bach". Personally, I like it as much as Fischer or Khunau harpsichord works.

Here's the run-down on the recorded items:

Concerto in G major, BWV 592a - This is a revision of a violin concerto by a younger composer in Bach's circle, Johann Ernst von Sachsen. Initially, Bach made an organ transcription BWV 592; the harpsichord transcription came later. The work has two fast and exuberant movements centered by a slow and sad piece. The transcription is lively and quite enjoyable.

Fantasia & Fugue in D minor, BWV 905 - Authorship of this work is not known. In 1917, Busoni used the music as the foundation for his Sonatina brevis in signo Joannis Sebastiani Magni. The Fantasia is slow and has no improvisatory elements; the Fugue has fine momentum and lyricism.

Suite in B flat major, BWV 821 - This appears to be a Bach creation and a fine one at that. The five movements consist of a noble Praeludium, lovely Allemande, strong Courante, hopeful Sarabande, and heroic Echo. The Echo was very nice to hear and reminded me some of the Echo from Bach's
French Overture.

Fugue in G major, BWV 957 - This work was of dubious ownership until the Yale manuscript revealed it to be Bach's creation. Another fine piece of music, the G major is cheerful and legato-driven.

Fugue in E minor, BWV 956 - Of unknown authorship, the E minor Fugue is relaxing and enjoyable music of fine poetry.

Fugue in A minor, BWV 959 - Angular and exuberant, the A minor was likely composed by one of Bach's sons or pupils. It does sound too repetitive for Bach, but it's a nice change of pace after the two previous fugues of a rather sedate nature.

Partita in A major, BWV 832 - This five movement work is as excellent as BWV 821 and also comes from Bach's pen.

Praeludium & Fugue in A minor, BWV 897 - Once thought to come from Bach, current research attributes the A minor to Cornelius Heinrich Dretzel. The Praeludium is an angular and improvisatory sounding piece; the Fugue is a delicately nuanced delight which gradually increases in intensity.

Sarabanda con Partite in C major, BWV 990 - Of unknown origin, this work is the most interesting on the disc. It consists of an initial Sarabande followed by fifteen variations and ending with the Sarabande again. With little exception, the variations don't veer far away from the Sarabande, but each one is highly lyrical and pleasureable. Variations 10 and 12 are absolutely gorgeous, Variation 13 is quite distinctive and vivacious, and Variation 15 is one of perpetual motion. Because of the unknown ownership, we can't state that the work is a forerunner for the Goldberg Variations, but that 10th Variation sounds mightly similar to one of the Goldbergs.

As for the performances, I have warm affection for Rieger's playing. The works are light, and Rieger does not try to make more of them than they have to offer. One review I read was not appreciative of the harpsichord sound, but I have no problems with it. The sound is more bright than rich, but a fine match with the music.

Don's Conclusions: Although a fine recording, I normally would not consider the works on the disc to be essential for acquisition. However, one never knows when a disc like Rieger's will be released; it could be many years. I think the CD is essential for serious Bach record collectors, and would make a fine addition to the collection of lover of Baroque harpsichord music. In other words, grab it before the delete button is pressed. Glissando's catalog number is 779011.


Suites BWV 818-824: Details | Recordings
Bach Harpsichord Works from Céline Frisch | Bach Harpsichord Discs from Hill and Suzuki | “Bach as Teacher” from Robert Hill | Bach or not Bach? | Bach’s French Suites from Suzuki | Comberti and Tilney Record Bach's Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord
General Discussions

Keyboard Works BWV 832-845: Details | Recordings
Review: Harpsichord Works by Richard Egarr | “Bach as Teacher” from Robert Hill | Bach or not Bach?
General Discussions

Christian Rieger: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach or not Bach?

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Last update: ýFebruary 9, 2010 ý00:22:42