Kirk McElhearn wrote (October 5, 2002):
The Musical Offering is the name of a set of pieces that Bach wrote for king Frederick II of Prussia. Bach's son, Carl Phillip Emmanuel, was harpsichordist for the young king, who was an avid music lover. He begged the younger Bach to have his father come and play for him. One evening, Johann Sebastian showed up, and the king immediately ushered him to a pianoforte, where he played a theme for a fugue. "Old" Bach improvised a fugue to this theme, but was so impressed by it that he wrote a much larger set of pieces around this theme, and dedicated it to the king, hence, this Musical Offering.
Yet this recording is a bit misleading - if you do not read the track list, you could think that it contains the entire work, while it actually only contains the trio sonata which is at the heart of the work.
The Academy Ensemble perform this work well, without being exceptional. The violin sound of Richard Friedman is dense and almost old-fashioned, it is reminiscent of Yehudi Menhuin. The combination of such a violin and the other instruments strikes this listener as strange, yet it is not unsightly.
The Vivaldi, which is performed by flute, bassoon, cello and harpsichord, suffers from this choice of instrumentation. The bassoon is an imposing instrument, and does not lend itself well to small ensembles. The harpsichord is all but drowned out, though the flute is prominent along with the bassoon.
The CPE Bach sonata is much more balanced, and the musicians finally sound like a real ensemble here. They seem to be in total harmony with this music, and one can feel their enjoyment permeating it. This delightful work, written when the young Bach was only 17, though revised 16 years later, has some very interesting sections, and show well the quality of this Bach son¹s music.
The Parisian Quartet no. 3 by Telemann, again shows the problems of instrumentation. In this recording, a cello replaces the original viola da gamba, and the bassoon plays continuo. There is a harpsichord in there somewhere, though you need to stretch your ears to hear it.
This is a lacklustre recording, featuring some fine music which suffers from uninspired playing and recording problems. If you want to hear Bachs Musical Offering, get the Jordi Savall recording that was released in 2001.