For many lovers of this famous music, Pinnock's earlier set of some 25 years ago has remained a benchmark recording. However, Pinnock has felt the need to revisit this work with the intention of celebrating all the advances made in both understanding and performing skills made in the intervening years. This recording made in 2007 was also an opportunity for him to celebrate his own sixtieth birthday.
For this project he drew together an ensemble of players of varying ages and at the peak of their profession in terms of Baroque music playing under the title of the European Brandenburg Ensemble. The intention was to illustrate Bach's 'daring and musical subversion' as opposed to his 'discipline and order.'
The most controversial choice made for this recording concerns the deep bass and which version of the violone to use. The choice lay between the 16 foot and the 8 foot instrument with the 16 foot adding greater depth. In the event, the decision was made to use the 8 foot version for concertos 2, 4, 5 and 6 and the 16 foot version for concertos 1 and 3. This is based on research and consequent opinion put forward by Peter McCarthy. Previously the 16 foot version would commonly have been used for all the concertos so this decision may disconcert some listeners.
In general terms the concertos are played at a faster tempo than in the previous set and, markedly, with a far greater sense of dance. This dance element is an important difference as it brings an altogether lighter and more joyful feel to the music making.
The players are all capable soloists in their own right but, as a previous trumpet player I feel that special mention must be made of David Blackadder's playing in concerto 2 and I also appreciate the fine horn playing throughout concerto 1. Pinnock also shines once more on the harpsichord in concerto 5. The other fine soloists are the recorder players, Robert Ehrlich and Antje Hensel, the oboist Katharina Spreckelsen, flautist katy Bircher and the violinist Kati Debretzeni.
The 2007 recording by Avie is excellent with good range and a warmer but realistic tone quality than can happen in baroque music recordings.
I would suggest that this is an outstanding version of these concertos and an improvement of the earlier set, fine though it undoubtedly was and still is. There can never be an outright best set in works such as these, but this set deserves to be seriously considered either as an 'only' purchase or as part of a collection of versions.
on 7 August 2009
Trevor Pinnock's new set of Brandenburg Concertos on Avie are absolutely fantastic! Die hards will tell you that the classic early 80's versions have not been surpassed. I don't agree. I have lived with versions by both Pinnock and Goebel and find the playing on the new set to be every bit as lively but with a much better, more lucid recording. Interpretatively, the newcomer is slightly faster in most movements giving an added sense of flow. And Mr Pinnock is every bit as amazing on the harpsichord of concerto no. 5. Bravo!
on 27 November 2007
25 years after his classic 1982 English Concert recording Trevor Pinnock has returned to Bach's famous concerto's with a new ensemble and although his new recording is very good i feel it COULD have been the ultimate set of Brandenburg's.In most of the concerto's on the new recording he has opted to use a small violone instead of the usual 16ft instrument and this deprives the sound of a healthy bass.Who knows if this was Bach's original intention or not but the bass just seems too lightweight in those concert where the small violone is used.There is still some good playing here and Pinnock's new ensemble perform well enough for sure, only in concerto no1 is there a slight instability from the horns.The trumpet part in no2 is better than most other performances i have heard and Pinnock himself is wonderful in no5.A very fine recording overall but the weak bass in most of the concertos does (at least to me ears) have a detrimental effect.
For anybody who is looking for a quality set of the Brandenburg's on authentic instruments this new recording is nevertheless among the finest available as it combines a very high standard of playing and good sound.The only reservation i have about it is the lack of bass in concertos 2,4,5 and 6 where the usual 16ft instrument is replaced by a small violone.
It's difficult to recommend only 1 recording of Bach's famous concertos as there are so many but this one along with the New London Consort/Philip Pickett and Pinnock's earlier English Concert recording are certainly worthy as top spot contenders.
Trevor Pinnock is always a most reliable guide through 17th and 18th century music and he has gauged the tempo's to well nigh perfection.
Addendum 17/4/2016 - My first choice recommendation for JS Bach's Brandenburg concertos is now by Florilegium.
There have been countless Brandenburg cycles over the years. Of these countless recorded cycles this Pinnock offering is one of the most dynamic offerings of these concertos. I have great affection for Pinnock's previous DG recordings with the English Concert. On listening to this new set I'm confident to say that this new cycle is so much more outgoing and engaging compared to the reserve of the previous cycle.
From the get-go in the First Concerto one senses that this Brandenburg cycle is a very gutsy offering. By this I mean that the performances on this cycle are very outgoing. Pinnock generally adopts fast tempi but they hardly sound rushed. Every soloist seems to play with all his (or her) heart and everyone relishes their solo turns. The horns in the First Concerto are full-throated and rasping, and conjure up the hunting atmosphere of this piece. Elsewhere I admire David Blackadder's superb trumpeting in the Second Concerto. I also admire the interaction between players throughout these performances, especially in the Third, Fourth and Sixth concertos. The performances of these concertos conjure up the feel of a dialogue as the players respond better to each other. And of course Pinnock has a flighty harpsichord turn in the Fifth Concerto, interacting with the flautist and the violinist and navigating that all-important first-movement cadenza with ease and panache.
I admire the lighter feel of this version because of the lighter bass line. I thought it makes the music trip along more lightly. Also it makes the textures much clearer. The recording quality is excellent too and aids the clearer textures.
To sum up, this is a superb recent Brandenburg cycle and it's well worth the money.
Also in the same vein is the Monica Huggett recordings of the Orchestral Suites, also on Avie. Both recordings strike me as progressive Bach recordings, and they give us marvellous performances of these core works.
on 19 March 2012
And why is this so much better than Trevor Pinnock's revered 1983 period performance?
It's in the music notes: back then, Bach's ''discipline and order was in awe'' was what Pinnock felt, his 1983 set hypnotic and almost robot like. Fast forward some 25 years later with Pinnock being 60 years old and not 35 years old, he now relishes Bach's ''sense of daring and musical subversion''. which means the music sounds like they are all having fun.
These performances will be incredibly hard to beat having an infectious infusion of technical prowess combined with sheer boyancy for joy of the musical score.
on 8 January 2014
This goes on my list of best recordings of all time. Having lost my set of Pinnock's original recording on DG's Archiv label, I bought this new one, and it's out of this world. Every movement of every concerto is inspired. Sheer love of the music shines through, and the playing is without a fault. Brilliant recording.