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The subtitle of this compilation--"27 Tranquil Tracks from the Master of Baroque"--might suggest you're in for a dose of watered-down, Muzaked treatments, but not to worry: this is actually a very attractive theme album that makes an enticing introduction if you're just setting out to discover the wonder ofJ.S. Bach. Some of the most familiar music Bach wrote does indeed reside in the slow movements of his concertos, suites, and sonatas. Often, they reveal an Italianate love for spinning gorgeous melodies that sound eternally fresh and haunting in a number of contexts (witness the opening "Air on a G String" and its reworking in Procol Harum's hit,"A Whiter Shade of Pale"). Opera was the only genre of his time in which Bach didn't write, but many of his slower movements display the intense emotional focus of operatic arias, and Bach's range of expression can cover an infinite degree of moods--from "tranquility" to the deeply mournful adagio of Brandenburg Concerto No. 6. From its archives, the Erato label has culled interpretations by some of today's leading Bach interpreters, such as Ton Koopman and his Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Jordi Savall, and Gustav Leonhardt.

The concept of "adagio" has been extended here to include chorales and slower passages from the great choral works, whereas some compilations offer only instrumental arrangements, thus overlooking this aspect so central to Bach's output. From the nearly two hours of music in this collection, you'll gain a pretty good overview of the stunning variety of genres that inspired Bach: the cantata, passion, concerto, solo instrumental suite, and many more (though a selection or two from the solo keyboard works would have been a nice inclusion). And, while Bach's slow movements are always integrated into a larger architecture, the gemlike beauty of these selections will likely inspire you to check out some of the full-scale works from which they've been excerpted. --Thomas May

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review by . March 01, 2004
posted in Music Matters
Bach's Adagios is peaceful music that will soothe the soul. Each of the pieces have unique arrangements and emphasize different instruments. Some have a strong keyboard presence, others are more string driven, still others even feature a vocal choir. Some pieces are more captivating than others. Tracks 1 and 4 stand out on the first disc. The lead off track on the second disc is pretty memorable as well.When I desire something more spirited, this two disc set has the potential to cause some boredom. …
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