A list of minor caveats to begin. First, audiophiles should be aware that this is, like all Kennedy's recordings, an analogue recording digitally processed and mastered. To my ears it sounds fine, vivid and positive, even if perhaps a little close. Second, Kennedy, who often takes up space with anti-critical diatribes, has this time allowed a critic, the acceptably blokeish Rob Cowan, to write the booklet notes, which strain to paint Bach as a bit of a punkish rebel himself. Third, Kennedy being Kennedy, he allows himself a degree of improvisatorial licence here and there at which some might raise an eyebrow but which to me seem idiomatic, spontaneous and pleasing. Indeed it is difficult not to like the entire disc. Kennedy makes a wonderful sound and seems genuinely thrilled by the challenge of getting his fingers around the notes. There's a sureness about his approach, a swaggering certitude in tone, articulation, phrasing that is hard to resist, and nothing about his playing is bland. He is partnered more than ably in the Double Concerto by Daniel Stabrawa and in the Violin and Oboe Concerto by Albrecht Mayer, and the conductorless strings of the Berlin Philharmonic make a rich but never swamping sound. While collectors who want something less occasional, more subtle, and more in the manner of the Baroque period should still look to an account like that of Andrew Manze, my benchmark, this is clearly a disc that will sit comfortably on the shelves alongside it.
© BBC Music Magazine 2000
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