J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Switched-On Brandenburgs

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Wendy Carlos
Individual Works:Concerto No. 1 in F major, BWV 1046
Concerto No. 2 in F major, BWV 1047
Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048
Concerto No. 4 in G major, BWV 1049
Concerto No. 5 in D major, BWV 1050
Concerto No. 6 in B-flat major, BWV 1051

Also includes (from the original album "Switched-On Bach II"):

Excepts from Orchestral Suite No. 2, BWV 1067
Suite from the Anna Magalena Notebook,
"Little" Fugue in G. Minor, , BWV 578
Two-Part Invention No. 13, BWV 784
Two-Part Invention No. 12, BWV 783
Aria: "Sheep May Safely Graze" from Cantata No. 208

Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:CBS Masterworks
Catalog Number:2cd's: MK42308, MK 42309
Year Released/Recorded:Recorded: 1969; 1973; 1975; 1980 (released originally)
Re-released on cd: 1987
Related Web Site:http://www.wendycarlos.com/
Comments:Review by Jan Hanford:

Performance: astonishing
Recording: outstanding

An astonishing musician; Wendy Carlos is truly one of a kind. These interpretations are always beautiful, often surprisingly sensitive and, overall, unique and wonderful. There is nothing else like them! CBS also put some tracks from the never-released-on-cd Switched-On Bach II as a bonus, making this one of my most treasured cd's.

Wendy Carlos is singularly responsible for synthesizer technology being as widespread as it is today because of her first album Switched-On Bach in 1967. I consider her to also be a strong influence for the revival of Bach in the 1960s that is thriving today. Switched-On Bach was so new, so bizarre and so beautiful that people who never would have listened to classical music developed an interest in it. It made me fall in love with Bach!

This collected set of the six Brandenburg Concertos plus various other works is a milestone in classical and electronic music. Her exceptional level of musicianship and tonal subtlety is unmatched. Except for one movement of No. 2, Concertos 1, 2 and 6 were newly recorded for this set (using newer technology) since they had not been included in her previous recordings. The others (Nos. 3, 4, 5 ) were previously released on various recordings and are identical to the original with the exception of No. 3 which she unwisely felt needed to be "updated" with some remixing and reverb (the original from Switched-On Bach is superior but I'm just being picky, it's still excellent). The new performances blend perfectly with the older ones. Although at the time of this recording synthesiser and recording technology was much improved since 1967's Switched-On Bach, she maintains the same beautiful tonal choices and variety characteristic of her earlier recordings.

Yes, the technology is amazing but what about the music? Perfect! For me, there is something very right about her tempos and interpretation. She's not just a synthesiser wiz; Wendy Carlos is a remarkable musician who applies her musical knowledge, intelligence, and taste to every phrase. Her musical sensibilties would be as welcome in any orchestral or acoustic instrumental performance.

This recording is the last of its genre; there hasn't been anything like it since, making it a must-have. Unfortunately, I believe this particular edition is out of print.

Addendum 12/11/99:

Wendy Carlos' back catalog of Switched-On Bach recordings has been re-released in Switched-On Boxed Set, including the exquisitely beautiful "Well-Tempered Synthesizer".

Acknowledgements:From the collection of Jan Hanford.
Date First Submitted:07/04/1998