Musical Opinion

This famous recording was made by Columbia Records in 1934 and first released on ten 12” 78s in a single Society Issue Album. Bach, of course, left the final Fugue unfinished and did not specify which instruments were to play the entire composition, if indeed he intended it for performance at all. Additionally, there are several movements the authorship of which has long been disputed. The American composer Roy Harris and his compatriot Mary D H Norton produced this version of the fully authenticated movements for String Quartet around 1930 and the recording contains Sir Donald Francis Tovey’s conjectural completion of the unfinished final Fugue. Even in this unfinished and rather uncertain form, it remains one of Bach’s greatest and most enduring intellectual and musical achievements.

This famous recording, now over 70 years old, has been overlooked for far too long by those companies who specialise in reissuing important recordings of the past, and it is with much gratitude and pleasure that I welcome this excellent transfer by Andrew Rose and the Pristine Audio company for the Divine Art label. Nevertheless, the recording is an old one, and listeners should not expect relatively modern sound, although this transfer has removed almost all of the original surface noise and has improved on the rather boxy sound of the original so we can listen with pleasure and profit to this musically very important CD. Strongly recommended, not merely to collectors of historical recordings.

—Robert Matthew-Walker