BIS Records Release Discs of JS Bach and Ge Gan-ru

There are two new classical SACD titles from BIS Records this month, the Chinese Rhapsody by Ge Gan-ru, performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and conducted by Josй Serebrier, together with a set of five (non-hybrid) discs of the organ music of J. S. Bach, performed by Hans Fagius.

The following text from BIS Records’ newsletter:

Ge Gan-ru: Chinese Rhapsody’ (1992); Wu for piano and orchestra* (1986)
Six Pentatonic Tunes for Orchestra – BIS-SACD-1509

Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Josй Serebrier with Margaret Leng Tan, piano.

Having previously released recordings of works by Chinese-American composers such as Zhou Long, Chen Yi and Bright Sheng, BIS is proud to present the first disc of music by Ge Gan-ru, born in Shanghai in 1954, but living in the US since 1983. In his work, Ge aims at achieving a true blend of Chinese and Western art music. Combining basic techniques from each tradition, he creates new music that is strikingly listenable, thought-provoking, and extraordinarily beautiful.

Featuring a Western symphony orchestra accented by Chinese percussion, both Chinese Rhapsody and Wu are perfect introductions to Ge’s compositional fusion. The former work has been described as “stunning” and as “an enlivening blast of fresh air” in The New York Times, while Wu (‘Rising to the Heights’), according to the critic in the UK newspaper The Independent, carries “the unmistakable excitement of discovering forbidden but nourishing fruit”, being “intense, lurid, rhetorical and sensitive by turns”. The final work on this disc, Six Pentatonic Tunes, was completed in 2003 with the present recording in mind, but the original piano version of the work was actually published already while Ge Gan-ru was living in China. Here the orchestra does not include any Chinese instruments, but the Asian character makes itself felt in the basic material in the work, derived from original Chinese folk tunes from various regions. These were collected by the composer while a student at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and are all based on a pentatonic scale – the single most basic element in Chinese music.

This the first recording of the music of Ge Gan-ru has been entrusted to conductor Josй Serebrier (whose latest BIS release, Carmen Symphony, earned him a Latin Grammy Award in 2004) and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, whose series of Rachmaninov’s symphonies for BIS has been highly praised. Soloist in Wu is celebrated pianist Margaret Leng Tan, a long-time collaborator of the composer.

The music on this Hybrid Super Audio CD can be played back in Stereo (CD and SACD) as well as in 5.0 Surround sound (SACD).

J. S. Bach – Complete Organ Music
Hans Fagius, organ – BIS-SACD-1527/28

Johann Sebastian Bach: Complete Organ Music including Die Kunst der Fuge, presented on five SACDs for the price of two – Ultra Extended Playing Time.

New technology offers us new possibilities – sometimes unexpected ones! For instance, Gordon Gould, the inventor of the laser beam, cannot have envisaged the widespread uses it now lends itself to – including the possibility of enjoying great music in a home environment. Here it is the superior storage capacity of the Super Audio CD which has been used in an unconventional way, achieving what we call Ultra Extended Playing Time. What this means is that on only five (!) discs we have been able to fit in Hans Fagius’ survey of Bach’s complete works for organ, originally released on 17 CDs. The set has been highly acclaimed: in 1992, The American Organist wrote: “Among complete recordings of the Bach organ works, this set has little competition”. And as late as in 2001 the critic of Classical Music Web concurred: “One of the best complete recordings of Bach’s organ music. Fagius demonstrates a magnificent understanding of Bach’s organ music, and the instruments used are excellent.”

As if this wasn’t enough we have in this release included the same performer’s interpretation of Die Kunst der Fuge, bringing the total up to 20 hours and 8 minutes of music. What previously took up quite a bit of shelf space now fits snugly into a box not thicker than three centimetres, holding besides the discs a 100-page booklet with a newly written, insightful essay by Hans Fagius himself, plus full documentation (in colour) of the instruments whose magnificent sounds can be enjoyed on the discs. In order to perform this magic feat we have transferred the original recordings (done in 16-bits 44.1kHz) to high resolution SACD stereo format, and then used the storage capacity of the SACD (usually employed for a surround mix as well as for a stereo mix) for stereo only. This has given us – and you! – more than four hours of available playing time on each disc, and all you need to enjoy it is an SACD-player! As you may imagine, we are quite excited about this – and we celebrate by offering these 20+ hours of glorious music for the price of only two SACDs!

[HFR Note: The ‘J. S. Bach – Complete Organ Music discs are not hybrids, they will not play on a standard CD player, an SACD player is required.]