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
Copyright © Basil Ramsey,
September 8th 1999
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