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Bach: Brandenburg Concertos

Johann Sebastian Bach , Il Giardino Armonico Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 36.74
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Product details

  • Performer: Il Giardino Armonico
  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (21 April 1997)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Teldec
  • ASIN: B000000SRC
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 388,688 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. (Allegro)
2. Adagio
3. Allegro
4. Menuetto - Trio - Menuetto - Polonaise - Menuetto - Trio - Menuetto
5. (Allegro)
6. Andante - Allegretto Tranquillo - Andante
7. Allegro Assai
8. (Allegro)
9. Adagio
10. Allegro
Disc: 2
1. Allegro
2. Andante - Allegretto Tranquillo - Andante
3. Presto
4. Allegro
5. Affetuoso
6. Allegro
7. (Allegro)
8. Adagio manon tanto
9. Allegro

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant performances. 5 Feb 2011
I've owned these CDs for a few years now and yet every time I put them on they sound as fresh as a daisy. Marvellous playing. Very bright. The performers have as much space as do jazz players and they use the space as creatively as the best of that genre. This band and these performances swing. Check elsewhere on Amazon for the lower priced issue of these Giardino Armonico recordings.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I can hardly believe that many of us reviewers listened to the same recording 4 Feb 2006
By A. - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I'm a professional singer who specializes in Baroque and early repertoire. This has made me a firm believer in the historical performance movement. It has done so much to give new shape and dynamism to works that were heretofore rendered mostly in broad, lugubrious strokes. The movement continues to evolve, and as it does the amount of color and depth infusing this repertoire continues to grow and take on new dimension. No longer are many of us content to hear Monteverdi and Lully sung with the extremely bright, straight tones of Emma Kirkby and Nancy Argenta, but rather wish to hear the more appropriate lush and shimmery vocal colors of singers like Sandrine Piau, Guillemette Laurens, Christine Brandeis and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.

With that in mind, I've heard more recordings of the Brandenburgs than I care to name. And I'm just as tired of the anemic sound and too-fast tempi of ensembles like Hogwood's as I am of the too slow, syrupy interpretations of Furtwangler and Karajan. This recording by Il Giardino Armonico is the only recording I've heard that manages to make these extraordinary works really speak.

Antonini bridges the gap between rich lyricism and crisp articulation better than anyone I can think of who performs this repertoire. My favorite of all the Brandenburgs is #4, and the five-voice fugue in the last movement is the standard by which I judge all the best interpretations of this work. Antonini does the most remarkable things with this piece. The subject is rendered by each voice in the most song-like, tuneful, vocal manner. Instead of thumpy, fast, dry (for most period recordings) or wobbly, incoherent, unintelligible (for most modern instrument recordings) here is great legato playing without any loss of crispness or transparency of texture. Where the line may jump a fifth, he connects the lines where most conductors demand extreme separation, and then creates the most astonishing, perfectly shaped messe di voce you can imagine. That said, all the entrances of the fugue subject are completely distinguishable, and no entrance has the same quality as any other. All the instruments are allowed to let their unique color and texture come forth, and Bach surely understood how important this was when he orchestrated the work. Furthermore, all of the silences in the work are sharply drawn by the ensemble and as dramatic as you might hear in any Beethoven symphony. I could hardly believe what I was hearing, and I was enormously grateful that, finally, someone got it right.

The other great measure of a high-quality period recording of this work is the natural horn playing on the Brandenburg #2. While it's a hair rough and decidedly masculine (the latter not being a bad thing), it's extremely powerful and expressive, and the player (Gabriele Cassone) understands how to make his instrument speak and dazzle, rather than just hammering out a technically perfect performance, which is all that most natural horn players can hope for.

It's rare that I don't have a complaint about a recording, but this is that exception. I recommend this piece heartily and unqualifiedly.
55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hesitantly said, the best set yet. 29 Aug 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This is by far the most energetic and consistent of the Brandenburg sets I've heard. Fast, furious, always keeping Bach's dialogue even and ordered, even in the fast movements, and they are quite fast. If you're used to the stuffy pomp of Sir Neville Mariner or the smooth spit and polish of Karajan, these readings will seem hurried and sloppy, but if you like your baroque loud and dynamic, this is the set to have. Also, Konrad Hunteller and the Camerata of the 18th Century turn out a similar reading well worth investigating--Matthew E. Holcomb
46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and dynamic 20 Dec 1999
By Axler - Published on Amazon.com
This is the best Baroque recording of the Brandenburg Concertos that I have ever listened to. The norm is a well-balanced even tempo orchestration. This performance breathes fire. If you listen to it on a good system, you don't just hear the music - you feel it.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hmm 23 April 2006
By Wayne A. - Published on Amazon.com
I think when I finally sit down and write my book on how the whole world of art music--from listeners to performers to composers--went totally haywire in the final days of the "Empire" (This'll happen around 2035 AD), I'll try to get permission to quote the series of reviews over head and down below. There's a modern myth that needs to be demolished that says that lovers of classical music are smarty-pantses. Read a bunch of Amazon classical reviews and then go peruse those for a few Aerosmith albums and note the similarities. While I'd argue that classical music aficionados should be a little wiser than most I've heard more mature and inciteful comments from the mouths of Beanie Baby collectors than I have from a lot of Bach and Beethoven fans (I'm immediately recalling one sophisticate who pronounced all music written after the death of Schubert as worthless). What classical music fans have more than anything else is opinions, largely because it's a fertile field for them which is still no excuse for dumb ones. Let me preface with this:

Teldec's marketing of this music has nothing to do with the musicians, the performance, or the composer. If you've ever spent an afternoon in a meeting with marketing "people" you'd know that their contact with anything we would know of as "reality" is tenuous. Current hot imbecilic maxims are about selling sizzles and not steaks, or boxes and not what's inside the boxes. Corporations actually think it's a good idea these days to hire marketing people who aren't fans of the product as it interferes with their spinning, lying, and duplicities, even if they aren't needed. Marketing people should all be carefully placed in a big sizzling box and the lid should be nailed shut.

The silly reputation of this particular group of performers is not the issue here, especially if we're worrying about whether this is going to be "rock and roll" Bach or not. Refer to the previous paragraph and welcome to the Brave New World.

This is a period instrument recording, meaning I, at least, expected blatting horns and fast speeds. Sometimes with recordings like this I expect speeds that many would deem psychotic. I once read that conductors in the early 1800s played like they were at a race track. No less a light than Felix Mendelssohn was mentioned as being a speed freak--the same Mendlessohn who was no taker of risks and thought his good friend Berlioz was a nut case. I assume this happened because there may have been something traditional about it. Classical music slowed down when its audience stopped being younger passionate artists and intellectuals and started being blue-haired ladies living in Philadelphia, middle-aged white guys, and modern Cherubinis. Big Band music used to be played at crazy speeds until it became nursing home music. Henry Rollins stopped shouting and now sounds like he's running for selectman. Slower speeds usually indicate the audience wants to be lulled to sleep and not energized.

The harpsichord sounds metallic because harpsichords often sound metallic. That's why Mr. Piano invented the piano some years later on and why Chopin did not write etudes for harpsichord.

If I've owned only four or five different recordings of a major work I don't tend to get all hot and heavy pro or con on a newer version. Reason? Well, zowie wowie, exposure to that few recordings hardly qualifies me as an expert. I'd feel like a fool pronouncing, say, Kleiber the Younger's Beethoven Fifth the all-time best or worst recording of that symphony based on that kind of meager sampling. Plus, in a crowded field there really is no best, just a clump of standouts near the top of the list.

All this said, let's actually look at this recording for real. First, sonically, it's a marvel. Beautifully engineered with stupendous presence. Second, these kids--punk rockers, rappers, Scientologists, or whatever the marketing jerks portray them as--clearly know how to play their instruments with style, accuracy, and panache. Third, the conductor knows how to make Baroque music breath and wiggle and surge and flow without making it sound like Klemperer and his big-arsed orchestra back in the 1960s (a recording I dearly love). On the other hand this interpretation thoroughly lacks the sewing machine quality that was a deep problem with many period instrument performances, coincidentally during the reign of Philip Glass and Steve Reich.

This recording struck me immediately as a well-reasoned and balanced performance--hardly academically correct (AC not PC), barely delightfully psycho like Goebel's on DGG, and not exactly likeably parlor and wine-and-cheese party safe like older versions by Marriner. I'd call this a vibrant and accomplished set of Brandenburgs perfect for those that want a modern period instrument recording, that are not interested in musico-political cat fights, and that are above needing the juvenile imprimaturs of "all-time greatest" or "best Brandenburg concertos ever!!!"

I'm giving this five stars because I like it a lot, it'll probably be my most frequently played one for a while (of the 756 recordings of this work that I own), and it does everything right. Aesthete below has it nailed.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Sinful!! 2 Dec 2001
By Karen G - Published on Amazon.com
Sinful was the first thing that came to mind the first time I listened to this CD. In fact I thought I had made a mistake after spending a very long time going through every sound bite of every BC CD that Amazon.com had. Since my musical tastes are rather broadband instead of serial, like many classical listeners (no offense intended), I decided to remove all my many years of preconditioning brought about by classical training and think like an artist instead of a classical musician. By the third listen I was in love with IGA.
They bring a passion to Bach that I have never heard before. Why is this important? Because passion is the difference between playing and performing. I've been listening to and playing Bach since I was 8 years old. I've always thought of playing Bach as an athletic event instead of a form of self-expression. Thanks to this CD I have changed the way I play. I now break the rules, cross the line, play vulgar and street like, and I enjoy every minute of it.
IGA may not be for everyone, but for those who want to hear the human spirit instead just mathematics executed with razor-sharp precision, you might want to check these guys out.
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