Ton Koopman has long been master of Bach's Orchestral Suites
, as these 1989 recordings attest. He has a wonderful affinity for the composer's orchestral colours, for speeds that are apt but never exaggerated and for working with players who are at the very top of their profession and yet who are never simply interested in surface gloss. It's not surprising that his Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra is one of the pre-eminent bands in the period-instrument world. Visual interest is added here by the setting--the exuberantly Baroque Het Loo Palace, built for William of Orange--and having the band move from room to room, depending on the size of orchestra demanded by Bach. Unfortunately, the acoustic of that used in Suites Nos. 3 and 4 rather dwarfs the orchestra, and the string section in particular sounds unfairly scrawny. Otherwise, visual elements are deftly managed, avoiding too many unflattering close-ups of oboists in action, though perhaps we see more of Koopman's pate than is strictly desirable. Altogether, though, these are classy and thoroughly recommendable performances of these great works.
On the DVD: Bach's Orchestral Suites on DVD falls down on extras, offering only the option of subtitles in English, German, French or Spanish. The booklet accompanying the DVD includes brief notes on the music but the English version is carelessly typeset, and this extends to the subtitles on the DVD itself (the Second Suite is listed as being in "B flat minor" rather than B minor). The 4:3 picture format does justice to the opulent surroundings but the acoustic is unflattering for the last two Suites, despite the otherwise acceptable 1989 stereo recording. --Harriet Smith
Bach - Four Orchestral Suites