Music and Vision homepage



Bach's throw-offs scrutinised




Record Box

The curious nature of this new CD compilation is that the pieces were left incomplete by Bach for no clear reason. Some readers may immediately question such an assembly of fragments, some of which screech to a halt just as our interest is caught and enjoyment rising. Little is understood of Bach's decision once in a while to abandon a piece which appears promising. But there is little point in lengthy debate: a composer is entitled to stop work if a piece for some reason has 'gone cold'.

Christopher Herrick plays these 29 fragments (from one to six minutes in length) on a richly-endowed Metzler organ in a Swiss church with resonance, all of which provides a good ambience for Bach. Strictly speaking, some of the 'fragments' are complete in themselves but were destined, as in the case of the concertos, to serve as parts of a three-movement structure.

Abandonment of the best fragments does seem odd, considering the facility and speed of Bach's creative powers. Stephen Westrop's notes advance the theory that some of these embryos were tests for pupils in completing them 'in the style of.....' Not a bad idea. We shall never know.

Initially, I was dubious of the purpose and value of this collection. My revised opinion admits the fascination of studying all this material, which has distinct value and help towards our perception of Bach's creativity. Some of which seems to us full of promise was presumably judged otherwise by Bach.

Copyright © Basil Ramsey, September 8th 1999 

 << Music & Vision homepage              More CD Reviews >> 


Record Box is published every Wednesday.