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Classical - Released October 4, 2019 | BIS

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With his decades-long immersion in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and his prodigious catalog of Bach recordings for BIS, Masaaki Suzuki might seem an unlikely interpreter of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, "Choral." Yet Suzuki previously proved his expertise in Beethoven with his superb 2018 recording of the Missa Solemnis and garnered praise for its clarity of textures, brisk tempos, and meticulous orchestral playing. True to form, Suzuki delivers Beethoven's final symphony with expected precision and transparency and brings the work's cosmic grandeur into more human focus with the lean early-Romantic orchestra and the comparatively small but agile chorus of Bach Collegium Japan. Considering the majority of performances of the Ninth that employ a full-scale modern orchestra and a massive aggregation of singers, Suzuki's reduced forces still produce a robust sound that at the same time is crisply accented, detailed, and free of the heavy doublings and reorchestrations that pass for tradition in many performances. Joined in the Finale by soprano Ann-Helen Moen, alto Marianne Beate Kielland, tenor Allan Clayton, and bass Neal Davies, the ensemble turns in an awe-inspiring "Ode to Joy" that benefits from clear diction and nearly perfect balance with the orchestra, particularly in the way the woodwinds and brass weave in and out of the solo and choral textures, giving the movement continuity within the whole symphonic structure. Traditionalists may still balk, but anyone open to hearing a powerful historically-informed performance couldn't ask for a better one. © TiVo
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Classical - Released August 19, 2008 | BIS

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Japanese historical-performance specialist Masaaki Suzuki reaches the 40th volume of his complete traversal of Bach's cantatas with this disc. The series has attained an impressive level of technical consistency, and technical ensemble precision is what Suzuki's style is all about. Start with the German pronunciation of his Bach Collegium Japan, which has been tested on native Germans and found flawless. Among the various Bach cantata series, you can think of Suzuki and John Eliot Gardiner as being at opposite ends of the spectrum, with Gardiner's humanistic readings closely connected to the text, and varying widely in style according to the text, while with Suzuki the focus is on the instruments, and even the able soloists somehow seem subsidiary to the overall effect. The distinctive moments in Suzuki come in moments of unusual texture, for example in the duet "Lobe den Herren, der künstlich und fein" from the Cantata No 137 (track 3), where Bach wrote a mysterious squiggly line above the staff, similar to those that appear in other Bach autographs but of unknown significance. Not to give anything away: what Suzuki makes of this marking is both extremely unusual and also a perfect example of something that only he could get away with. More generally, these cantatas are of the type he does best. The Cantata No. 137 and the familiar Cantata No. 79, "Gott der Herr is Sonn und Schild," BWV 79, are big pieces with several brass instruments and timpani, and absolutely nobody is better than Suzuki at clarifying textures with Baroque brass instruments, which are challenging to play to begin with. The two sonatas are nicely set against works featuring wind instruments deployed in subtly dramatic ways. Most impressive of all is the sound; the environment of the Kobe Shoin Women's University Chapel is uncannily well suited to the music and to the conductor's aims. Superb as usual, this is a good milepost disc for those starting out with Suzuki's series. © TiVo
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Classical - Released July 3, 2015 | BIS

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Classical - Released January 5, 2018 | BIS

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The complete Bach cantata cycle by Masaaki Suzuki rolls on with some of the secular cantatas, among the composer's least-known works. This is odd for several reasons. The two cantatas recorded here were designated "drama per musica," and the secular cantatas in general are as close as we have to operas by Bach. Further, the secular cantatas are often humorous and topical in nature in a way that Bach's other music is not. No stimulus, in fact, is known for the composition of Geschwinde, Ihr wirbelnden Winde, BWV 201, better known as Der Streit zwischen Phoebus und Pan, or The Dispute Between Phoebus and Pan. The text, by Bach's frequent collaborator Picander, is a little reflection on learned (Phoebus is the advocate here) vs. lighter, more popular music (embodied by Pan), and this was surely a topic on Bach's mind with the advent of new comic styles in the 1720s; in just a few years his music would be characterized as outmoded, and his supporters would pull this piece out of the closet in retort. Bach does not play up the rustic imagery included by Picander, but even so the interpretation by Suzuki and several of his regular stable of soloists is a bit on the cool side. They actually fare a bit better in the birthday-celebration cantata Auf, schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten, BWV 207a, a work in which Bach made use of twice-recycled material (the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, BWV 1046, is involved). This too is intriguing for those interested in a deep dive into Bach's parody technique, and the performances are all clean, and the texts intelligible. Recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 30, 1997 | BIS

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Classical - Released August 5, 2016 | BIS

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