cd review | classical music

Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, ‘Adagios and Fugues: W.A. Mozart after J.S. Bach’

Adagios and Fugues: W.A. Mozart after J.S. Bach

Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin

Harmonia Mundi

Early in the 1780s, Mozart began attending soirees at the home of music patron Baron van Swieten, who owned an extensive collection of Bach and Handel manuscripts. Mozart began copying Bach’s fugues for his own studies and made arrangements of Handel oratorios for performance — both would provide much of the stimulus for the counterpoint in several of his latest works. This CD gives a glimpse, though only a narrow one, into Mozart’s Bach studies.

In fact, you have to read the liner notes with exceptional care to tell what connection to Mozart some of the music included here has. There are three fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier that Mozart arranged for strings; the preludes, though, are not verifiably Mozart’s work. There are other Bach arrangements by anonymous composers from the same era. Finally, there are only two verifiable Mozart compositions: the Fugue for Two Keyboards, K. 426, and the later (and more familiar) reworking of this material into the Adagio and Fugue in C minor for strings, K. 546. Whether this smorgasbord really deserves the label “W.A. Mozart After Bach” is debatable. Regardless, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin’s performances are wonderful — stylish, impeccably played, and, in some cases, imaginatively arranged.

David Weininger can be reached at