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.