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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Zuzana Ruzickova's Lifetime Obsession With Bach Yields Incredible Results

By Norman Lebrecht on December 16, 2016

Bach: The Complete Keyboard works. (20CD) Box set / Zuzana Ruzicková harpsichordist
Bach: The Complete Keyboard Works. (20CD) Box set / Zuzana Ruzicková harpsichordist

J. S. Bach: The complete keyboard works (Erato)

★★★★ (out of five)

Amid the seasonal rock fall of weird-shaped box sets and unopenable recorded turkeys, one project stands out as indispensable in both musical and moral dimensions.

In 1965, a little-known harpsichordist began recording the Bach keyboard works for a niche French label. By the time she finished ten years later, Zuzana Ruzickova and Erato had received every French record award, wresting harpsichord Bach away from deadhand American academics back to a middle-European vivacity. Ruzickova, resisting celebrity, Communism and the temptations of the music world, taught the next three generations of leading harpsichordists from her home in Prague.

Zuzana Ruzicková | Bach: The Complete Keyboard works. (Erato)
Zuzana Ruzickova | Bach: The Complete Keyboard Works. (Erato)

A survivor of four Nazi concentration camps she brought — and still brings — a moral imperative to the act of playing, no note without meaning, no performance without perspective. Her Bach edifice has now been reissued by Erato on 20 CDs ahead of her 90th birthday in January 2017, and further critical analysis is superfluous. Play any disc and you will hear the living Bach, the fount of hope in dark times.

Where to begin? Start at the last disc with the concerto for flute (Jean-Pierre Rampal), violin (Josef Suk) and string orchestra (Prague Soloists), all playing to Ruzickova’s organic and often mischievous rhythm. This, and the succeeding Brandenburg Concerto, is music that never loses its smile even as a tear trickles down one cheek. The artist at the keyboard is an immutable presence.

J. S. Bach: The complete keyboard works (Erato) is available at Amazon.com.

For more LEBRECHT LISTENS, click HERE.

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

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Ludwig Van Toronto

SCRUTINY | U of T Opera Street Scene Marked By Fine Musical Values And Youthful Enthusiasm

By Joseph So on November 28, 2018

U of T Opera’s 2018-19 season opener adds musical polish Kurt Weill’s "Street Scene".
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Johannes Moser And Maximilian Hornung Make Fair Arguments For Cello Concertos

By Norman Lebrecht on November 16, 2018

This week, Norman Lebrecht highlights two new Cello concerto albums by Johannes Moser and Hornung Maximilian.
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Ross Petty's colourful take on Wizard of Oz is a twister of musical comedy that is entertainment for all ages.
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