So much Bach, where do I start?

I think I could really get into J.S. Bach, but I want to start with music that has characteristics I know I like.
up tempo,
different voices simultainously playing different melodic lines,
modern recording,
virtuosity (duh)

organs (from what little I've percussive faculty)
quiet music (for the moment)

I've been researching some with Napster and for soloists I like really like Casalas and Segovia, but the recording quality is kind of distracting to me. I also quite like the Double Violin Conerto Viviance (even despite the harpsicord ;) it's the only non-solo music I've found so far) and the piano Fugue stuff.
So, any particular CDs to check out? I need something to compliment my first good stereo system!
Try a recording of the Brandenburg Concertos (Concerti). It'll have what you like. Look for an excellent ensemble and excellent conductor. A very fine recording (though there may certainly be better) is of Benjamin Britten conducting the English Chamber Orchestra. It's a two CD set that's usually found for a bargain price. Excellent musicians though -you'll like it.
Everyone should have a set of the Brandenburg Concertos. Modern recording, but then again do you prefer modern or original instruments? There are two modern recorded original instrument recordings out currently. One by Trevor Pinnock and the other the Boston Baroque/Perlmann. If you like modern instruments then look for Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

For voices Bach's cantatas are a good bet. There are hundreds of these. Other than the above artist look for John Elliot Gardiner, Helmut Rilling, and Ton Koopman. There is also the B Minor Mass, St. John Passion, St. Matthew Passion. It you want an overdose of Bach, Helmut Rilling is recording all of Bach's works in a mega CD set, The Complete Works of Bach. It will be hundreds of CDs. (Can be purchased in partial sets.)

I agree with Sugarbrie, particularly on the Pinnock recommendation for the Brandenburgs, my favorite for its vitality. Rilling's recordings are on the Hanssler label, pretty well recorded and fine interpretations. I suggest you get the Magnificat, an excellent vocal piece, and if you get adventurous, the Mass in B Minor, the toughest but most rewarding piece of music I've ever sung. The John Elliot Gardiner version of this piece is very good, on Archiv, though a little shrill at times (but then again, that's what Baroque trumpets sometimes sound like); I like it better than the Perlman on Telarc for interpretation, Telarc for sonics. Finally, try the four orchestral suites, plenty of variety within their movements; any of the above conductors mentioned by Sugarbrie probably has a good recording. Enjoy!
Yes, try the Orchestra Suites also. If not a somplete set, I think #2 is the most popular??
That one's my favorite; usually they're two to a CD. One more thing I just thought of, you might want to ease your way into Bach's keyboard music through Stokowski's orchestral transcriptions of some of those works (remember the opening Toccatta and Fugue in D Minor from the original Fantasia?). There was a very good Chandos recording of them years ago which I have on vinyl and may be available on CD, and Telarc had some of them on its The Stokowski Sound CD with Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops; I'm sure there are other versions available, as these were quite popular. Worth looking for, as they're a lot of fun.
I listen to the Brandenberg Cd's a lot, my issue was released by a mucical society (can't recall the name) and is on loan right now. I just picked up "The Art of Fugue", Bach's last piece and it was done by Rinaldo Alessandrini and is on Opus 111. I have been tempted to pick up other performances of the Brandenberg Concertos and have a music picker that just called with a Scottish or Irish performance (can't recall which) but will pick it up next weekend. I am also pretty new to classical music, but like anything else know what I like.
Everybody who loves Bach is going to have their own favorites for recorded versions. My choice for the complete Brandenburg concertos is a relatively new recording by the Boston Baroque (Martin Pearlman, Director) on the Telarc label. It features period instruments, and the recording quality is superb. Another version which is also excellent is the recording by Tafelmusik on the Sony label. If you like violin, I recommend the solo and double violin concertos, recorded on the Harmonia Mundi label by Andre Manze, Richard Podger, and the Academy of Ancient Music. The Orchestral Suites are also well worth owning, and the version by Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music on the London label is excellent. The Well-Tempered Clavier, a group of some 24 preludes and fugues, is also a great work. There are two good recordings of WTC, one on harpsichord by Davitt Moroney (Harmonia Mundi) and the other on piano by Andras Schiff (London, 2 CD's). I also like the Goldberg variations, with the most famous recording by Glenn Gould. There are 2 more recent versions which also are commendable by Andras Schiff (London) and Ton Koopman (Erato). Bach was also a master of choral music, and no collection is complete without his "St. Matthew's Passion" (try the John Eliot Gardner version on Deutsche Gramophone with the Monteverdi Choir), and the "Mass in B Minor" (2 good versions: John Eliot Gardiner with Monteverdi Choir on the DG label; and the version directed by Robert King with the King's Consort on the Hyperion label.)
Yes Brandenburg Concertos are very good, too many good versions to mention, I have Pinnock/Archiv label.

What you really want though going by your description are
Vivaldi concertos, which can make Bach sound stodgy by comparison. Get the entire sets, not just "4 seasons".
Great sets include, Opus 3 L'estro Armonico, Opus 4 La
Stravaganza, Opus 8 Il Cimento (includes 4 seasons), Opus
9 La Cetra. Each opus contains 12 concertos, exciting and
passionate as baroque music gets. Many good cheap sets available by Pinnock, Hogwood, Marriner and others.
This has exploded :-)
Well, I'll see what's at the local record shops, and I'm sure if I look I can find a specialty store. I dug around my mother's house and turned up an ADD recording of the Brandenburg Concertos on Sonata, they are missing sleeves though. I hadn't even considered Bachs's choral pieces.
Megasam, I'll take a look at Vivaldi. I also found the four seasons with Pinnock, I quite like Winter.
I became interested in Bach in large part due to the book "Godel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadler (sp?). I wanted to look into some of the compostion techniques he talks about, backwards themes, hiding his name, etc.
For Vivaldi orchestral try the Musici version with C. Scimone on Philips Classics, vols 1&2, and enjoy!
i read 'goedel, escher, bach' more than ten years ago - a fascinating book, but not an easy one. with regard to the composition techniques, hofstaedter - for the most part and as far as i remember - refers to bach's 'art of fugue'. in fact, 'goedel, escher, bach' inspired me to get a recording of this fascinating piece (kenneth gilbert on DG/archiv). however, this might not be the kind of baroque music you are looking for. not very easy to listen to, but still enjoyable (harpsicord, though).
for a better understanding of hofstaedter's work it might also help, if you read up a little on canons, fugues, contrapunctus etc. (i have to admit, i only have a very basic understanding of these topics).
1)Trevor Pinnock's Recording of Brandenbergs/Archive--None finer.Archive/Digital 1984 versions
2)Even if you hate harpsichord or organ now, you may find the music transcribed on other insruments. Not to be missed category
A)Schubler Chorals. Alain/Erato/org
B)Goldberg Variations /Gustav Leonhardt/hrpchd
C)Tocattas & Fugues / Walcha/org/Archive
D)2&3 part Inventions/ Kenneth Gilbert/hrpchd/Archive&HM
3)I highly recommend the Italian Concerto done on piano by Alfred Brendel/Phillips(Includes chorale preludes done incredibly well)
4)Well tempered Clavier/Sviataslav Ricter/piano version/DG
Hope you enjoy the journey through this greatest of all baroque composers....Frank
Frank, thank you for suggestions above. I second Pinnock, Leonhardt, Brendel, and Richter; will check out Walcha, Alain (I've been looking for a "convincing" Chorals version for some time now). May I also suggest Orchestral Works / Munchinger / Decca: I think you'll find The Art of the Fugue convincing.
Hi Greg; Just to clarify, The great version of the Schubler is Marie Claire Alain, Erato Digital, CD # 75064.
This was early digital , but the sound (amazingly)was demonstration quality. Better than the earlier analog versions.
Helmut Walcha is the definative Tocatta &Fugue in D, on Archive CD. Hope you can find them still available in the catalouge. Good luck Greg.
Frank, thanks for the extra info. I already ordered the MC Alain version on Erato (the # came in handy!), and my friendly music dealer is looking for the Walcha.
Best regards!
Greg, inadvertantly gave you the Erato LP cat #. Once more now,Erato CD# ECD 88030. Sorry
Frap, the Alain is GREAT! Txs for the right # --- but my dealer found the CD just the same.
Thank you for the suggestion!
The Walcha "complete" organ works on CD can be ordered from europe, try I just read in the Grammophone that it is due to be released in the US. MC Alain also did the complete Bach organ works, I have them on vinyl and find them an excellent alternative to Walcha, who is really my favorite in this music. I think only selections were re recorded or released on Erato.
I'll put in a plug for Christopher Herrick's Bach organ works cycle on Hyperion, well-recorded for the most part and well registered and played. I had the pleasure of meeting Christopher (he stayed at my home for a few days during an AGO workshop and concert at my church a few years ago), and found him to be a lot of fun but also a very serious musician, particularly with respect to his interpretations of Bach. The next summer I got to hear him play a number of concerts when he played all of the Bach organ works over a two-plus week period at Lincoln Center, quite a feat. Aside from his ability to master the technical demands of Bach's music, I find his taste in registrations to be excellent. As a good example of his playing, I'd recommend his Hyperion recording of the Bach Trio Sonatas, a reverberant and perhaps slightly bright recording which conveys the beauty and intricacy of those pieces, one of my favorite Bach organ discs.
Greg, you are quite welcome and thank you for taking a chance on my opinions.