Bach Collegium Japan
Rafi Gokay Wol
“Over the past 30 years, under the directorship of their founder Masaaki Suzuki, the Bach Collegium Japan have become one of the world’s leading baroque ensembles.”(The Guardian)
Bach Collegium Japan was founded in 1990 by Masaaki Suzuki its inspirational Music Director, with the aim of introducing Japanese audiences to historically informed performances of great works from the baroque period. Comprised of both period instrument orchestra and chorus, their activities include an annual concert series of Bach’s cantatas and a number of instrumental programmes. The award-winning ensemble is now exploring classical repertoire, having released a recording of the Mozart Requiem in November 2014 and subsequent discs of Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor, which won the Choral category in the 2017 Gramophone Awards, Beethoven Missa Solemnis and Beethoven Symphony No. 9.
Bach Collegium Japan has established a formidable international reputation through their acclaimed recordings on the BIS label of the major choral works of Johann Sebastian Bach. 2014 saw the triumphant conclusion of their recorded cycle of the complete Church Cantatas, a huge undertaking initiated in 1995 and comprising over fifty CDs; this major achievement was recognised with a 2014 ECHO Klassick ‘Editorial Achievement of the Year’ award. Their recording of Bach Motets was honoured with a German Record Critics’ Award (Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik), Diapason d’Or de l’Année 2010 and also in 2011 with a BBC Music Magazine Award. They have also recently released a box set of the Secular Cantatas, a first disc of Harpsichord Concerti under the leadership of Masato Suzuki, the group’s Principal Conductor, and a new recording of the St Matthew Passion which received a Gramophone Award in 2020.
Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzuki have shared their interpretations across the international music scene with performances in venues as far afield as Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, New York and Seoul, and at major festivals such as the BBC Proms, Edinburgh International Festival, Flanders Festival, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Bachfest Leipzig and New Zealand International Arts Festival.
In 2020 the ensemble marked its 30th anniversary with a European tour in addition to their regular series of concerts at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall and Tokyo Opera City.
“Thirty years after he founded his groundbreaking Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki seems to have aged barely a day, yet his performances with them don’t stand still … this performance of Bach’s St John Passion was underpinned throughout by a sense of heated and tightly plotted drama.”
“Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan on BIS perform the symphony with the energy that we have come to expect from period instruments. Suzuki’s Beethoven is less volatile than some of his counterparts, but it offers expression and drive in equal measure, while keeping an eye on the big picture. Fifty years on, the period instrument movement still feels fresh and vital.”
“[Masato] Suzuki’s hands moved seamlessly between the two manuals adding to the drama of this richly scored work. The accompanying period instruments produced a lively orchestral sound centred around the dynamic viola interactions with the harpsichord … Suzuki took full advantage of the opportunity to show off the full extent of the Taskin’s bright tonal colours with his dazzling account of Bach’s virtuosic Italian Concerto for solo harpsichord.”