About this Recording
8.550194 - BACH, J.S.: Violin Concertos, BWV 1041-1043 (Takako Nishizaki, Capella Istropolitana, Dohnányi)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)

Violin Concerto in A Minor, BWV 1041
Violin Concerto in E Major, BWV 1042
Double Violin Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1043
Violin Sonata in E Minor, BWV 1023 (arranged by Ottorino Respighi)
Air on the G String (from BWV 1068)

Johann Sebastian Bach was born at Eisenach in 1685, the youngest son of a town and court musician and member of a family with long musical traditions. An orphan by the age of ten, he moved to Ohrduf, where his elder brother was organist, embarking, in 1703, on a professional career as a musician. Employment as organist at Arnstadt and later at Mühlhausen was followed by a period of eight years as court organist at Weimar, and a further period from 1717 to 1723 as Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, the social summit of his career. Bach left the Prince's service in 1723 to take up the position of Cantor at the Choir School of St. Thomas in Leipzig, where he was responsible for the music of the major city churches, and later directed the university Collegium Musicum established there by Telemann in 1702. He remained in Leipzig for the rest of his life.

Bach was a prolific composer, his compositions corresponding very largely with his current responsibilities. Many of his works for organ were written in earlier years, while his primarily secular responsibilities at Cöthen, where the prevailing Pietism at court excluded elaborate musical activity in church, elicited a number of instrumental compositions. Initially at Leipzig he worked to meet the demand for church cantatas, later turning his attention to the repertoire of the Collegium Musicum and to the collection and publication of many of his earlier works.

The three violin concertos that survive in their original form, the Concerto in A minor, the Concerto in E major and the Double Concerto in D minor, scored for strings and basso continuo, were all written during Bach's period of employment as Kapellmeister at Cöthen, where the young prince Leopold, a keen amateur, showed a great interest in music that was only curtailed by his marriage at the end of 1721 to a woman that Bach was later to describe as "amusa", lacking in any musical inclinations. It was this marriage, nine months after his own second marriage to Anna Magdalena, that caused his application to Leipzig and his departure. The three concertos also exist in transcriptions for harpsichord made by the composer in Leipzig, with other concertos that survive only in such transcription.

The Concerto in A minor opens with a characteristic figure, which forms a repeated element in the movement. There is a fine-spun melody over a repeated bass figure in the slow movement and a final gigue movement which includes brief moments of technical display by the soloist. The rather more complex Concerto in E major opens with a movement in which the first figure assumes considerable importance in what is to all intents and purposes a da capo aria. There is a slow movement of sustained beauty over a repeated bass figure, and a lively final rondo.

The Double Concerto in D minor opens energetically in the form of a fugal exposition, one solo violin following the other in emulation. There is a dialogue of remarkable beauty in the slow movement and a final movement in which the second violin follows the first in excitingly close juxtaposition.

The present release also includes an orchestral arrangement of Bach's E minor violin sonata by the famous Italian composer Ottorino Respighi and a version of the well-known Air on the G String, arranged from a movement of the third Orchestral Suite.

Takako Nishizaki
Takako Nishizaki is one of Japan's finest violinists. After studying with her father, Shinji Nishizaki, she became the first student of Shinichi Suzuki, the creator of the famous Suzuki Method of teaching children to play the violin. Subsequently she went to Japan's famous Toho School of Music, and to the Juilliard School in the United States, where she studied with Joseph Fuchs.

Takako Nishizaki won Second Prize in the 1964 Leventritt International Competition (First Prize went to Itzhak Perlman), First Prize in the 1967 Juilliard Concerto Competition (with Japan's Nobuko Imai, the well-known viola-player), and several awards in lesser competitions. She was only the second student at Juilliard, after Michael Rabin, to win her school's coveted Fritz Kreisler Scholarship, established by the great violinist himself.

Takako Nishizaki is one of the most frequently recorded violinists in the world today. She has recorded ten volumes of her complete Fritz Kreisler Edition, many contemporary Chinese violin concertos, among them the Concerto by Du Ming-xin, dedicated to her, and a growing number of rare, previously unrecorded violin concertos, among them concertos by Spohr, Bériot, Cui, Respighi, Rubinstein and Joachim. For Naxos she has recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Mozart's 5, Sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven and the Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms Concertos.

Capella Istropolitana
The Capella Istropolitana was founded in 1983 by members of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, at first as a chamber orchestra and then as an orchestra large enough to tackle the standard classical repertoire. Based in Bratislava, its name drawn from the ancient name still preserved in the Academia Istropolitana, the orchestra works in the recording studio and undertakes frequent tours throughout Europe. Recordings by the orchestra on the Naxos label include The Best of Baroque Music, Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, fifteen each of Mozart's and Haydn’s symphonies as well as works by Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann.

Oliver Dohnányi
Olive, Dohnányi was born in 1955 and studied the violin, composition and conducting at the Bratislava Conservatory, in the Slovakian capital, pursuing further studies in Prague under Václav Neumann and others, and in Vienna under Otmar Suitner. He graduated in 1980 but had already established himself as artistic director of the Charles University Art Ensemble and the Canticorum lubilo chamber ensemble in Prague. He has won distinction in various competitions, including the Respighi Competition in Italy and international competitions in Budapest and Prague. From 1979 to 1986 Oliver Dohnányi was conductor of the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra in Bratislava and has appeared with major orchestras there, in Prague and in Hungary, as well as with the West Berlin Symphony Orchestra, and since 1986 has been principal conductor of the opera of the Slovak National Theatre. In addition to work with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, he has appeared as a guest conductor in the concert hall and in opera in France, Italy, Austria, the USSR, Cuba, East Germany, Bulgaria, Switzerland and elsewhere.

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