ivo janssen

Bach Cycle
Liner notes

music below decks


Anna Enquist


It must have been somewhere in the autumn of 1997. I was sitting at the desk on the upper floor of my houseboat in Amsterdam, staring at the telephone in front of me. I had just hung up. The years before that I had, more or less intensively, tried to get any of the reputable classical CD labels involved in my plan to record all of J.S. Bach's keyboard works. There had been a few who had shown some interest, but not in the way I wanted. I could have made one or even a couple of recordings, but I needed to be certain that I would be able to complete the whole project.

Moments ago the last of those esteemed CEO's had been kind enough to inform me personally that the terms we had already more or less agreed upon could not be met, after all. He was very sorry indeed, of course.
So there I was, not quite knowing what to do next, but at the same time more and more aware of the idea that had obviously been in the back of my mind for some time now: I'll do it myself, then. I picked up the phone again and called Tom Peeters at Mediatrack, the recording studio that I had been working with very satisfactorily on several occasions before. We agreed on a period in December that year: two days to record the Goldberg Variations. After another couple of phone calls, hardly an hour after that last rejection, everything was set: Yamaha provided a grand piano, André Oorebeek, my trusted piano technician, was available, and so was the Evangelical Lutheran church in Haarlem.
Me, I knew the notes.

That first VOID Classics CD was released end of January 1998. I had found a distributor who let me bring one hundred copies to his office. He'd wait and see if they sold; it was a poor market, after all. One week later he asked for five hundred more, and after another week the first thousand had been sold. That could have been worse.

Within a year, the second and third volume were launched, the Toccatas, French Suites and Italian Concerto. Every summer, and often winter, of the following years I spent a couple of days in that small church in Haarlem, always with the same team, and under the same circumstances. After endlessly listening to, selecting and editing the takes, and after all the various practicalities that the production of a CD requires, every few months there would be a new, resounding album, always beautifully designed by Lynne Leegte.

Before you lies the result of a decade of dedication to all those wonderful notes that Bach composed centuries ago. It has become a collection of rare completeness: 191 BWV numbers, 20 discs, 509 tracks, 23 hours and 12 minutes of music. When I look back, it makes me proud and glad: it was worth it.
And much more than that.

Ivo Janssen, 2011

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