Bach and Fasch family go head to head

Bach's contemporary Johann Friedrich Fasch and his composer son were much admired - and imitated - by the great man

Composer: Bach
Repertoire: Orchestral Suites Nos 1-4
Artists: Ensemble Sonnerie/Monica Huggett
Rating:  4/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: Avie AV2171

Composer: JF & CFC Fasch
Repertoire: Concertos & Overture
Artists: Zefiro/Alfredo Bernardini Deutsche  
Rating:  3.5/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: Harmonia Mundi 88697 36792-2

Famous for the so-called (though not by Bach!) ‘Air on a G string’ and flute-led Badinerie, the Four Orchestral Suites represent the summit of the Baroque era’s predilection for suites of dances, more often than not in the gallant, French style. Each one opens with an overture, followed by such popular dance forms as the minuet, gavotte, bourrée and courante. Huggett’s new period-instrument recording is an outstanding example of modern scholarship and supreme musicality working in perfect symbiosis. The music is meticulously articulated and phrased, yet there is an underlying warmth and charm to these readings that is often absent from ‘authentic’ music-making. 

Fascinatingly Huggett chooses almost identical tempos to Neville Marriner in his trailblazing 1971 account for Argo/Decca, but there the resemblances end for this is a conjectural realisation of Bach’s original versions which appear to have featured a solo oboe in the Second Suite (instead of the flute) and omitted the celebratory trumpets from the Third and Fourth Suites. The results are beguilingly persuasive although many may still hanker after the added brilliance of the revised, more familiar version. 

Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758) and his son Carl Friedrich Christian (1736-1800) were among the most important of Bach’s German contemporaries and successors, and although neither was in his class, JF was much admired by Bach and, if this fine collection of his concertos is anything to go by, imitated by him too. Zefiro play this enchanting, buoyant, endlessly inventive music with an infectious joie de vivre that makes its current neglect seem all the more astonishing. More please!