About this Recording

Listen learn and grow with Bach

The ear is the first sensory organ to develop in utero, being completely formed and functional from 24 weeks, and it is clear that stimulation to the central nervous system, through sound, provides an important ingredient to a child's early brain development. It has been shown that classical music is processed in the same region of the brain that develops language and mathematics, so music can play an important role in developing many aspects of your child - even before birth.

music and mind development

Indeed, the French physician Alfred Tomatis - who first proved that the foetus can hear in the womb - has discovered that there are three times the number of nerve connections between ear and brain as there are between eye and brain. Tomatis has founded a successful Institute with over 100,000 clients, and deployed high-frequency violin concertos to help alleviate speech disorders and autism. The simplicity, elegance and logic found in the music of baroque and classical composers (Mozart, Haydn, Bach, and Vivaldi being the most popular and tuneful) is the key to this profound effect on early brain development.

music to stimulate and inspire young minds

This pioneering research was based around the music of Mozart, but there are also strong arguments that classical music in general can improve our spatial reasoning. Classical music is set apart from other forms of music by its complex structure, which babies as young as 3 months can pick out. It is this complexity which researchers believe primes the brain to solve spatial problems more quickly. Bearing this in mind, the complex structures that form a basis to Bach's music are just as likely to stimulate brain development as the music of Mozart.

IT seems worth notingthat it is not only listening to classical music that can have a positive impact on a child's development; learning a musical instrument has been shown to have an even more lasting effect on certain thinking skills. So not only might your child improve brain development by listening to this disc, it may also spark an interest in learning a musical instrument that could bring longer-lasting effects on spatial reasoning skills.

Although now beloved and revered by millions as the greatest composer who ever lived, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was best known in his lifetime as an organist, and was eclipsed in fame as a composer by two of his 20 children. For the last 27 years of his life he was a schoolteacher and choir director whose duties extended to meal supervision and dormitory inspection. Yet throughout his career he composed a vast body of music, which is amongst the most joyful and enrapturing ever written.

CD 1: Music for movement, fun and play

This disc sets out to familiarise children with some of Bach's liveliest and most playful pieces. Many of the choices on this disc use instruments in the upper frequencies such as the violin and the flute. These have been selected bearing in mind the research that has shown music in the higher frequencies to be particularly beneficial. CD1 begins with an extract from Bach's B minor Overture, characterised by its precisely defined dance rhythms. CD1 also closes with a movement from another of Bach's orchestral Overtures - the festive Gigue from the D major (track 20).

Led by the piping flute, the jesting Badinerie (track 1) is the final movement of the B minor Suite and is full of jollity and playfulness. The Polonaise (track 12) from the same Overture is a graceful yet regal promenade - perfect for a march round the living room! The piping flute comes back again in the Allegro from the E minor Sonata for Flute and Continuo (track 11) and in the Corrente from the Partita for Solo Flute in A minor (track 18).

Both CD1 (tracks 2, 7, 14 and 17) and CD2 (track 11) include movements from Bach's famous Brandenburg Concerti. Only re-discovered in 1849, these six Concerti now enjoy enduring popularity. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 was written for three groups of instruments each consisting of three members of the violin family (three violins, three violas, three cellos). Bach ingeniously makes use of the various possibilities of combination.

The Allegro (track 2) is one of the fastest and most invigorating examples of string playing in all Bach's music. Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G major is scored for a group consisting of a violin and two recorders. The Allegro (track 7) illustrates just how the strings, recorders and solo violin cheerfully weave together. Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D is often considered to be the first piano concerto in musical history. The virtuoso soloist is supported by a flute and violin accompaniment. The Allegro (track 17) is based on a vibrant dance theme with the rippling harpsichord bursting in and out of the strings. The Allegro assai from Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F major (track 14) presents an intricate solo quartet consisting of trumpet, recorder, oboe and violin. CD 2 features the slower moving Andante (CD2: track 11) from the same concerto.

Noted for its combination of simplicity and intricacy of patterning, Bach's keyboard music features in many early learning piano books. The chosen fragments (tracks 3 & 4) from Anna Magdalena's Notebook are elegant examples of Bach's piano music. The Musette (track 13) is a dance that takes its name from the French shepherd bagpipe. Another popular example of Bach's piano music can be found in the Allegro from Italian Concerto in F major (track 19), a work that holds a particular place in the affections of every pianist.

Bach's music for strings is similarly revered by violinists, violists and cellists alike not only for the technical dexterity it requires, but also for the uncompromising purity of tone which the music demands. The high register of the violin can be heard in its full glory in the selection of violin music on CD 1. The Concerto for two violins, in D minor BWV 1043 is today one of Bach's best-known and most frequently performed works. It opens energetically in the form of a fugal exposition, one solo violin following the other in emulation (track 10). Bach's Sonatas and Partitas stand at the very pinnacle of the violin repertoire. They are works that place considerable demands on the soloist. The Preludio from Partita No. 3 (track 9) is a fine example of the violin at its lively and agile best.

Bach wrote his six suites for unaccompanied cello about the year 1720. Each of the six cello suites opens with a Prelude. For example, Suite No. 1 in G major (CD 2: track 8) has an introductory movement in which the changing harmonies are made clear in arpeggiated form. However, the suites are best known as a collection of dances. The two Bourrées from Suite No. 3 (track 8) are both boisterous and refined, and the Gigue from Suite No. 6 (track 16) is a fiendish collection of broken chords and tumble-turning strings.

Bach wrote and transcribed works for lute, drawing in part on works he had written for unaccompanied violin and unaccompanied cello. Various transcriptions of these and other works have been written for the guitar, an instrument well suited to handling the contrapuntal textures of diverse instrumental compositions. There are some fine examples of guitar transcriptions - Bourrée anglaise (track 6) from Partita in A minor (originally for flute) and the rapid Presto (track 15) from Sonata in G minor (originally for violin).

CD 2: Music for contemplation, rest and relaxation

The music on this disc provides the perfect wind-down to an active day. Let your child be soothed by this selection of calm rhythms and lush melodies. The opening Prelude in C major (track 1) is among the best known of all the 48 Preludes and Fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier. It is a miracle of proportion and of careful key development. Each bar represents one single chord, and the work's joy is in hearing these chords progress as on a carefully-planned journey, with perfect economy of means. Charles Gounod (1818 - 1893) loved the work so much he added a melody, calling his version "Méditation", to which another added the words of Ave Maria. This forms the closing track of CD2 (track 15).

The Suite in D major is one of Bach's most impressive and magnificent orchestral works. The character of the work is determined by a sweeping first movement with a wealth of harmonic nuances, which gives way to the famous Air we hear here (track 2). Above the constant pendulum movement of the bass, the first violins soar up in one of the most mysterious and tender melodies Bach ever wrote.

Bach's early biographers allege that an insomniac Russian ambassador to the court of Saxony had commissioned a set of Variations for performance by his protégé, the harpsichordist Johann Goldberg, to amuse him during the hours of sleeplessness. Generation after generation has discovered their ability to soothe the mind and furrowed brow of both young and old, so the Goldberg Variations are perfect to lull your little ones to gentle slumber. Track 3 sets out the opening of the work, featuring the theme presented in its simplest and most direct form. All the other movements develop from this theme: we hear Variation 13 (track 6).Another Bach piano favourite is the delightful piano arrangement of the cantata Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (track 9). It was created by Dame Myra Hess and has remained immensely popular on account of its simplicity and delightful rolling melody. Similarly romantic is the Concerto in E major, BWV 1053. The slow movement is a gentle pastoral dance known as a Siciliano (track 13).One of Bach's most celebrated compositions for choir the Christmas Oratorio was written while Bach was Cantor at Leipzig. This Sinfonia (track 4) is a delightful orchestral interlude. Whatever their inspiration, the Flute Sonatas require considerable ability and dexterity. The high tonal palette is ideal for the young and very young who respond well to higher frequencies. The Siciliana from the Sonata in E flat major for flute & harpsichord (track 5) has the qualities of a lullaby. The guitar transcription of the Adagio from Harpsichord Concerto, BWV 974 (track 14) is similarly calming. In addition to the flute and violin, the oboe is another instrument with a high, penetrating register. We hear the violin and oboe alongside each other in the Adagio from Concerto in C minor BWV 1060 (track 7). Although the Largo from the Oboe Concerto in G minor (track 10) is beautifully wistful, the oboe decoratively weaves between the strings and continuo with seamless agility.

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