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Classical Album of the Week: Bach for the New Year!

December 30, 2019. Here at WRTI, Johann Sebastian Bach is a morning ritual. Weekdays, around 8 am, host Gregg Whiteside invites us to breakfast with the Baroque master, during Breakfast with Bach. Bach has actually been a daily repast for many musicians and non-musicians alike.

Whether it serves as a warm-up, jump-start, pick-me-up or salve, it often pairs with coffee and a sense of beginning or renewal. (I even recall a cello teacher — caregiver and taskmaster in equal measure — asking me, “Have you taken your Bach vitamins today?”)

This week, as we greet the new year and all of its new beginnings, our choice for Album of the Week could hardly be anything other than, you guessed it, J.S. Bach.

Italian early-music ensemble Concerto Italiano, led by conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini, has enjoyed critical praise for their Bach, Vivaldi, and Monteverdi interpretations over the last few decades, and their new release of the Bach Orchestral Suites continues in that tradition of excellence.

The dance movements of the Orchestral Suites are truly dance-worthy — nothing staid about this. The performances are exquisitely well-styled, and at the same time have buoyancy and drive that’s, in the best possible sense, deliciously raucous.

On this album, listeners are treated to not just the four well-known J.S. Bach Orchestral Suites but also two similarly formatted works by Johann Bernhard and Johann Ludwig — works not as well known, though ones that stand up confidently alongside those of their younger cousin.

So, shake off the shackles of 2019 and hit reset with some fresh Bach for 2020!

For a taste of Concerto Italiano’s period performance prowess, hear them in these Vivaldi and Bach performances from earlier albums:

Bach’s Brandenberg Concerti:

Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerti: