03-07-2014 Here is the sublime English Concert in the first 3 Brandenburg concerti of J.S. Bach, written in 1718-1721 while the composer was stationed at the court in Cothen, where he was Kapellemeister
They are here recorded by this wonderfulEnglish group under the astute leadership of the ever youthful appearing Trevor Pinnock for the DGG label. Contained on one disk these works rune a total of just over the 43 minute mark and I think DGG should of given us a filler for the price. Still, for their tasteful scholarship, accuracy of performance stanmdards and actual sound, they are very, very good. The recording technique allows us to hear each individual soloist with clarity and full, rich tone. Concerto #1 opens with the option of the tempo to be selected by the performers, and not indicated by the composer. This is highly unusual but the EC gets it right by selecting a stately and sunny rolling pace that feels quite comfortable. As Duke Elington once said, "If it sounds good, it IS good." This applies nicely to these performances The Concerto #1 is in F and is scored for 2 horns, 3 oboes, a bassoon and strings, plus the harpsichord, as this instrument is heard in all three of these Brandenburgs. It runs for 19:51 and is the longest of the three in this set. The Adagio is a deeply felt and melodic tune , with a solos oboe taking the lead, that is then passed off to violins. The music is dark and mournful, but has an austere beauty about it, nonetheless. The lower strings are rather mellow and full bodied. I like this movement quite a bit. The happy and sunny Allegro that follows is bright and filled with luminescence. with a slightly quicker tempo to it. The finale is a four part composition beginning with a Menuetto, in a graceful and dipping rhythm and a catchy little tune I found hummable immediately. it is followed without break by a trio. One that has run it's course, there is a Polish dance, a Polacca. The horns return at the 05:06 or so, and carrying with it that trio melody to the end. This last m movement I found tedious and too lengthy with the trio theme merely being repeated over and over.
Now, for the best of the 3 Brandenburgs on this CD, the Concerto #2 for Flute, Oboe, Trumpet, violin and harpsichord continuo. It has a lively and rhythmically sunny disposition and draws a smile from your truly. This is happy, dignified and stately music of an upbeat nature and shows Bach's genius as an improvisor and inventor of melody and harmony. The tempo is perfect and the blending of these diverse instruments is impressive, to say the least. The 2nd movement Andante features another plaintive and slightly mournful idea, exquisitely pouring out of these players, with the soloists warmly supported . the miking is superb and the electronic pick-up couldn't be better. DGG did a splendid job here, as they also did in the second set of the Brandenburgs, There are several complete sets of these masterpieces available today, and I have the I Music grouping along with these artists. there is, of course, a set by Karl Munchinger as well as by Karl Richter with the Munich Bach Soloists. Don't over look the recording by Jaap Schroder and Concerto Amsterdam as well as the Japanese conductor ______________ and his fine set .
The last Concerto on this DGG Archive CD is the 3rd Concerto, in G, it is scored for 3 groups of strings, almost impossible to detect by listening only. Each of the three string groups contain the following:3 violins, 3 vili, 3 celli plus a harpsichord and a solo Violone, a miniature fiddle with a noticeable high pitvh, sort of like the Cornett in the trumpet family. Pinnock's tempo here I thought a tad too brisk, but certainly within limits. Just a little slower and it would be perfect. This deducts a fraction of a point from my rating as I give it a 4>75 star rating and a very high recommendation. A scholarly and completely enjoyable disk and one you will return to time and again for the glory of Bach. Don't hesitate, buy yours toady and enjoy! God bless all, Tony.