This is a copy of my review of all six Brandenburgs as originally released:
Why does Mr. Goebel play his violin so fast, daddy?
Because he can, son.
I suppose that's not an adequate answer. Most of the negative reviews of this performance express outrage at Goebel's tempi, but in fact the only movements of the six Brandenburg Concertos that might be considered abnormally fast are the second of #3 and the first of #6. Otherwise Goebel sets consistently playable tempi, with maximum contrast between the allegros and the adagios. To my ear, the breakneck fiddling on the allegro of #3 sounds authentically thrilling; anyone would have to admit that it's very well played.
What's so darn good about Bach, anyway? Some people may never know. To really appreciate Bach, you need to hear all the voices - all the lines - simultaneously. It's a listening skill not everyone has, and an intellectual mode of listening more than an emotional one. Not that Bach can't be appreciated emotionally! That would be an absurd assertion. But to really hear Bach, you need to follow the counterpoint instinctively, to make sense of three, four, five instruments in a conversation where they all play at once. That's what's so very darn good about Musica Antiqua Koeln's performance of the Brandenburgs: all the lines speak clearly. The precision and balance of the ensemble creates an astonishing musical transparency. I know the Brandenburgs very well; I've played the bassoon and recorder parts in concert. I've been buying and listening to new recordings of them since I was a teenager in the 1950s. Even so, when I listen to this performance by MAK, I invariably "hear" exchanges between parts that I never noticed before. I hear the distinct eloquence of the inner voices. In #5, my favorite of all, I hear the incredible harpsichord of Andreas Staier in every measure, even when the full ensemble is blazing away. Thus, when the harpsichord soars into its otherworldly extended cadenza, the most electrifying moment in all Baroque music, it sounds both inevitable and continuous with the musical development of the allegro.
There are at least sixty performances of the Brandenburgs available on CD currently. Some are superb, some are mediocre, and some should be mercifully retired. Even if you already have a favorite, one of the superb sort, you won't regret hearing Reinhard Goebel's bold interpretation. And if it's too fast for you, all I can say is...listen faster!