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Bach: Violin Concertos

J.S. Bach Audio CD

Price: £21.95
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Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. J.S. Bach: Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, BWV 1041 - 1. (Allegro moderato) 3:56£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. J.S. Bach: Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, BWV 1041 - 2. Andante 5:06£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. J.S. Bach: Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, BWV 1041 - 3. Allegro assai 3:55£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. J.S. Bach: Violin Concerto No.2 in E, BWV 1042 - 1. Allegro 7:59£1.09  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. J.S. Bach: Violin Concerto No.2 in E, BWV 1042 - 2. Adagio 5:50£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. J.S. Bach: Violin Concerto No.2 in E, BWV 1042 - 3. Allegro assai 3:00£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. J.S. Bach: Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings, and Continuo in D minor, BWV 1043 - 1. Vivace 3:55£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. J.S. Bach: Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings, and Continuo in D minor, BWV 1043 - 2. Largo ma non tanto 6:38£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. J.S. Bach: Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings, and Continuo in D minor, BWV 1043 - 3. Allegro 4:47£0.79  Buy MP3 

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Comparison of Four Period-Instrument Performances 2 Feb 2008
By Leslie Richford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750): Violin Concertos. Performed by Jaap Schröder, Christopher Hirons and the Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Christopher Hogwood. Recording made in 1981 or 1982 and released in 1982 as L'Oiseau-Lyre 400 080-2. Total playing time: 44'34".

I own four "historically informed" recordings of Bach's beautiful violin concertos, and I would like to contrast and compare them here. For want of a better method I will take them in chronological order.

The oldest is the L'Oiseau-Lyre CD of this repertoire made in 1981 or 1982 by Jaap Schröder with Christopher Hirons as second violin and accompanied by a group of musicians from the Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Christopher Hogwood. In addition to its glorious Decca engineering, this CD has the advantage of a fairly small group of players (string distribution 3-3-2-2-1), making for great transparency of sound. Jaap Schröder takes the concertos with wonderful lightness of touch and a relaxed feel about his playing, stressing the dance-like rhythms in Bach's music. The solo violin (violins on the double concerto) are placed in the foreground, and the bass line is not so heavy as on some of the other recordings. In the Double Concerto, Christopher Hogwood replaces the harpsichord with a chamber organ, which, if you listen carefully, seems to me to be ideal and to give the concerto just the right "feeling". This is a grandiose piece of musicianship!

The Standage/Wilcock/Pinnock recording Bach: Violin Concertos BWV 1041, 1042, 1043was made during 1983, and its perhaps most outstanding characteristic is the incredibly good Deutsche Grammophon engineering, which yields a wonderfully pure, spacious sound. The performance itself is excellent, no doubt, but I found myself querying some points. Firstly, there are the tempi; Pinnock takes the fast outer movements faster than anyone else, and although the difference is not world-shattering, I felt that Christopher Hogwood's slightly more relaxed approach did the music good. But it is in the slow central movements that Standage/Pinnock really differentiate themselves: they take these a good deal more slowly than anyone else, and despite the beauty of Simon Standage's violin tone, I found this to be somewhat soporific. Was this a step towards that "nobility" of tone which has often been noted in the English Concert's later recordings with Deutsche Grammophon? Be that as it may, it was the slow movements which made me feel that somehow Pinnock had put the brake on and was no longer allowing the ebullience and fire of some of his earlier Bach recordings (e.g. the Overtures and Brandenburg Concertos).

The third recording comes, from my European perspective, from a very unexpected quarter: It was recorded in 1993 at St. Stephen's Church, Belvedere, California by a group I had never heard of before, the Arcangeli Baroque Strings, with leader Michael Sand as soloist in the A minor concerto and together with Lisa Weiss on the Double Concerto, and with Elizabeth Blumenstock as soloist in the E major Concerto. The disc also includes the reconstructed concerto for 3 Violins after BWV 1064 (with Lisa Grodin as third soloist): Bach: Violin Concertos. The Arcangeli Baroque Strings have practically only one player to a part (first and second violins have two players each, but including the soloist; there is one each of viola, cello, violone and harpsichord). This makes, even more than on Christopher Hogwood's recording, for absolute transparency of sound (this is not only due to Music and Arts' excellent engineering). The tempi are somewhere in the middle between Schröder/Hogwood and Standage/Pinnock, very pleasant indeed, but it is the passionate violin playing which really makes this disc the best I think I have ever heard of this repertoire: unbelievably good (although the Double Concerto does not, in my opinion, work quite so well as the other concertos on the disc). The US West Coast early music scene has set a benchmark here which it will be difficult for anyone anywhere to outdo.

The last of my four recordings was made at some time during the 90's (the sparse documentation is hardly worth the name and gives no details). It is by Australian baroque violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, which is here also directed by Elizabeth Wallfisch: Bach: Violin Concertos. There are pros and cons to be heard here. It would seem that the ensemble is larger than on most other recordings, and the bass line is decorated by Paul Nicholson on the harpsichord (which can be clearly heard, which is definitely not the case on the Pinnock recording). The tempi here are moderate, slightly slower perhaps than I would have wished, but there is a good deal of emphasis on the rhythmic aspects of the music. Elizabeth Wallfisch's violin is embedded in the group and not always quite so easy to hear as the soloists on the other recordings; her playing is, as usual, wonderful, although there are occasions when I felt that there was a slight harshness of tone which did not always become the music.

As a footnote, I should perhaps say that only the Schröder/Hogwood disc gives details of all the instruments used, something that seems to have gone out of fashion, but which I feel should be part and parcel of a good period-instrument performance.

To summarize, I would say that the Sand/Blumenstock/Arcangeli Baroque Strings is the disc to go for if you are looking for a recording of this repertoire that can take your breath away. If it is no longer available, as is unfortunately often the case with benchmark recordings on small labels, then personally, I would go for the Schröder/Hogwood next. If price is a criterium, then the Wallfisch/OAE is available at budget price, both in a 2CD set and in a 4CD package together with the Brandenburg Concertos. The Standage/Pinnock is, of course, also a brilliant recording, but personally I would recommend it only as a second choice.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still among the best ones. 31 May 2006
By O., S. Mr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This CD was recorded some twenty (20) years ago, but I believe the performance level is still among the best ones. Jaap Schroeder's violin performance is crisp, lucid and elegant. It is indeed a shame this magnificent CD is no longer in production.
4.0 out of 5 stars Overall, My Favorite Rendition 27 Jan 2014
By Peter Besenbruch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Back when LPs were king, violin soloists and orchestras released recordings of three of J.S. Bach's violin concertos in a, E, and the double concerto in d. Back in the early 80s, the violinist Jaap Schroeder produced a series of recordings with the Academy of Ancient Music, lead by Christopher Hogwood. This recording offers the "traditional" three concertos, coming in at a rather short 49 minutes.

Hogwood's conducting is almost always controlled, measured, and precise. Tempos are slower than some of the more recent versions (especially Lara St. John's), but faster than, say the earlier (1967) extremely relaxed Harnoncourt version.

Schroeder has had a mixed career, especially with Bach. His recording of the unaccompanied sonatas and partitas suffered from major intonation issues any time there were double or triple stops. His work with the modern instrument ensemble, the Concerto Amsterdam, was quite good, with Schroeder displaying a style of winsome playing, and a superb sense of phrasing.

Here Schroeder plays a baroque violin. Intonation is good, the phrasing is impeccable, and the bowing is a bit scratchy. The interplay between soloist and orchestra is excellent. The A minor comes close to my favorite rendition (Harnoncort's), the E major has Schroeder at his winsome best, alternating singing lines with leaps up and down the scale.

Schroeder joins Christopher Hirons in the D minor concerto. If anything Hirons is technically the better player. Another interesting fact: The concertmistress in this recording is Monica Huggett, who is a better violinist than either of them.

Never-the-less, this is a very pleasing recording, well balanced, and always worth yet another listen.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Recording, Wonderful Performance 6 Jan 2013
By Greg Weaver - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
The purchase was a great value. The disc offeres not only a great performance of these works, but it is a wonderful recording as well.
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