This excellent value Virgin Classics 4-CD box set repackages the recordings Andrew Parrott made of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites in 1989 and 1993. These were originally released on the short-lived EMI Reflexe label (here Brandenburg Concerti 1-6 and here Bach;Orchestral Suites) and I once had them on handsomely packaged LP sets. Rather like the performances contained on these discs, this reissue has ultra-minimalist packaging in an old fashioned "fatbox" jewel case with minimal notes. That's a bit of a pity, as these are distinctive performances that do need some explanation, I think!
The Brandenburg Concertos are augmented by the inclusion of the Concerto in C minor (from Sonata for Viola da gamba & harpsichord BWV 1029) and are given by Parrott and the Tavener Players. These are refined and beautifully balanced performances of these well-known works, offering reduced scoring and spare forces; all together quite an ascetic and illuminating recording. There are similarities with the recording made for L'Oiseau-Lyre around the same time by Philip Pickett Bach: Brandenburg Concertos /Pickett; both sets are quite good fun. An old favourite of mine, by the way, comes from the late 1960s from Collegium Aureum Bach: die Brandenburgischen Konzerte.
The recording of the Orchestral Suites incorporates the Concerto for Flute, Violin & Harpsichord (BWV 1044) and is given by the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra. Again, Pickett's recording is a contemporary recording in this style Orchestral Suites 1-4. If this sparse, slightly thin-sounding, recording sounds too extreme, then do try Harnoncourt's 1960s set Bach : Orchestral Suites 1-4; what sounded revolutionary on release sounds very mainstream compared to Parrott's recordings today!
This set is well-worth considering if you are at all attracted to the "hair-shirt" end of the period instrument "movement" as it reached its apex in the late 1980s and early 1990s.