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Akademie fur Alte Musik, Berlin – Adagios and Fugues: W.A. Mozart after J.S. Bach (2014) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Akademie fur Alte Musik, Berlin – Adagios and Fugues: W.A. Mozart after J.S. Bach (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 51:16 minutes | 1022 MB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Digital Booklet | © Harmonia Mundi

Early in the 1780s, Mozart began attending soirees at the home of music patron Baron van Swieten, who owned an extensive collection of Bach and Handel manuscripts. Mozart began copying Bach’s fugues for his own studies and made arrangements of Handel oratorios for performance — both would provide much of the stimulus for the counterpoint in several of his latest works. This CD gives a glimpse, though only a narrow one, into Mozart’s Bach studies.

In fact, you have to read the liner notes with exceptional care to tell what connection to Mozart some of the music included here has. There are three fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier that Mozart arranged for strings; the preludes, though, are not verifiably Mozart’s work. There are other Bach arrangements by anonymous composers from the same era. Finally, there are only two verifiable Mozart compositions: the Fugue for Two Keyboards, K. 426, and the later (and more familiar) reworking of this material into the Adagio and Fugue in C minor for strings, K. 546. Whether this smorgasbord really deserves the label “W.A. Mozart After Bach” is debatable. Regardless, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin’s performances are wonderful — stylish, impeccably played, and, in some cases, imaginatively arranged.

Titled Mozart: Adagios & Fugues (after Bach), this release by the venerable Akademie für alte Musik Berlin might more accurately be described as Arrangements after W.A. Mozart after J.S. Bach. The contents of the program are something of a mishmash, containing actual Mozart works in Bach’s style; Mozart arrangements of Bach for string quartet, here slightly rescored for no very good reason; slow movements added to Mozart’s arrangements taken from a manuscript of Mozart’s time but apparently not by Mozart; and entirely new Bach arrangements in the Mozartian vein that have nothing to do with Mozart at all. Listeners can pick out the differences among these if they listen intently, but the question is whether they should have to do so, given the violation of truth in advertising represented by the cover. For those not bothered by that, go ahead and sample more deeply: the Akademie für alte Musik Berlin, the preeminent early music group to emerge from the former East Germany, has always had a distinctive sound, lush and slightly mysterious, generated from a small group of a bit more than a dozen strings and, here, assorted other instruments. For those in search of a pleasant set of arrangements of Bach fugues, with fine sound from Berlin’s Teldex Studio, this album works. For those seriously interested in what Mozart made of Bach, it’s less useful.

01 – Prelude & Fugue in D Minor K405/4, after J.S. Bach, BWV 877 (The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II)
02 – Larghetto cantabile in D Major & Fugue K405/5, after J.S. Bach, BWV 874 (The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II)
03 – Adagio & Fugue in A Minor, after J.S. Bach, BWV 867 (The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I)
04 – Allegro in C Minor, K Anh 44 & Fuga a due Cembali, K426
05 – Adagio cantabile & Fugue in E Flat Major, after J.S. Bach, BWV 876 (The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II)
06 – Adagio & Fugue in C Minor, K546
07 – Adagio & Fugue in E Major, K405/3, after J.S. Bach, BWV 878 (The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II)
08 – Adagio & Fugue in B Minor, after J.S. Bach, BWV 849 (The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I)
09 – Adagio & Fugue in D Minor, after J.S. Bach, BWV 849 (The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I)


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