The Freiburg Baroque Orchestra are a class act, and their performances here of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos
is indisputably high quality. Though the formal concert garb of the players (even the intricately decorated harpsichord conforms to the black-and-white dress code) might suggest otherwise, these are not live performances but offer a kind of private concert for us, the home viewer. The setting is suitably impressive--a magnificently marbled and parquet-floored room in Cöthen Castle (Bach was in the employ of the court of Cöthen when he wrote these concertos). And the virtuosity of the setting is matched by the playing, though sometimes the speed suggests that the players are anxious to catch the last train home.
So much for the audio; how about the visuals? Well, options are admittedly limited but the cameraman seems to have something of a fixation with the (male) first horn-player's earring throughout the First Concerto. And close-ups of oboists as they tackle taxing solos rarely show them to their best advantage. That's a small gripe, though, as an introduction to one of the masterpieces of the Baroque repertoire, and as a demonstration of virtuoso playing of period instruments, this certainly has strong appeal. Best, however, to avoid the additional brief video clips tagged onto the end. The second reduces a movement from Bach's Coffee Cantata to badly sung kitsch, while the third features a Pythonesque cut-out Bach (complete with pink wig) prancing round Cöthen Castle.
On the DVD: there are little in the way of extras. Subtitles are provided in English, German, Italian, French, Spanish and Japanese and of course you can pick and choose tracks. The booklet provides some basic but useful information about the works. The picture is anamorphic widescreen (16:9). --Harriet Smith