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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 23 January 2008
At the time of writing, the relevant Amazon pages list 14 CD recordings of Bach's complete Brandenburg Concertos. This particular one can lay a strong claim to being one of the best. It offers a faithful, superbly played and authentically Baroque reading of these evergreen works.

The six concertos that make up the Brandenburgs are very varied - they may not even have been conceived as a set - so it's refreshing to see that no artificial attempt at uniformity is made: the mantle of 'musical director' is shared between three highly accomplished violinists - Monica Huggett, Catherine Mackintosh and Elizabeth Wallfisch.

Technically, concertos four and five offer the greatest challenge. I remember reading somewhere that Bach may never have had the chance to hear such demanding works actually played during his lifetime. A sobering thought. The pieces are played here with verve and precision by Huggett and Malcolm Proud, on violin and harpsichord respectively. The harpsichord solo in the opening Allegro of the fifth concerto is a spellbinding passage which gets increasingly frenetic (almost manic) and prefigures Classical/Romantic cadenzas and much else. Proud is always controlled and introduces subtle variations of tempo and dynamic to avoid sounding prosaic.

Artistically, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment brings a creative engagement to the works without ever putting themselves before JSB. I particularly liked the horns' cross rhythms throwing confusion and an air of modernity into the mix in the first concerto. (Recently, I heard this effect again on radio - by Europa Galante, if memory serves.) The small scale of the ensemble, meanwhile, creates a sound that is transparent and lucid, nowhere more so than in the second concerto, where Mark Bennett's trumpet is crisp and clear. My only complaint is that the ensemble make no attempt to fill the lacuna in Brandenburg 3. A meagre two or three bar violin solo bridges movements 1 and 3. Two chords in the manuscript are all that's left of the slow movement - but it is enough to tell us that something is missing. Interpolations from The English Suites have been used to good effect in other recordings and it's a shame something more ambitious isn't attempted here. But what we have is excellent music and unbeatable value.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2011
Performances are pleasing: proper sense of scale with being overblown, sensible tempi and fine nuances bending/nudging the 'line' of the music. The sound is excellent - at least through my Quad electrostatic loudspeakers: clear, focused, with depth and transparency; no signs of the concerns expressed by others (which there will be with MP3 compression).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This has to be one of the best recording of the Brandenburg Concertos. The variety of the the instrumental groups involved often give complete sets the feeling that they are just a set of different recordings brought together. It's clear from this set that there is a clarity of purpose and consistency across the recording that tie all the concertos together. There are some moments of great beauty like the opening of the Adagio of the first concerto to the pure energy and joy of Mark Bennet's trumpet in the final movement of the second concerto.

Well worth listening to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2013
I would recommend this recording. I think this is very happy music and this rendition is particularly graceful and relaxing, being played on original instruments and recorded in churches. It's also about 25 years old, so whilst it's not the sharpest of recordings, the acoustic is lovely. The ebb and flow of diminuendos and crescendos and expression; the balance of tempo, the crispness of the faster passages - you can feel every note.
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on 22 November 2013
The many moods of Bach, his ability to change and manipulate one's emotions, all in one box. Seems like a miracle. Well known from my youth, tunes and harmonies full of happiness and thoughtfulness, Although the original works were made for employers and aristocratic audiences, there is something for everybody here
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I recently re-bought this 1989 recording of Bach's near-ubiquitous "Brandenburg Concertos" in a fit of nostalgia for the late 1980s, early 1990s "period instrument boom", which gave birth to dozens and dozens of recordings when CDs were the shiny new kids on the block. Indeed, I sought out an original release (here Brandenburg Concerti 1-6), in one of those "fat-box" jewel cases, card slipcase, and (most importantly) the oversize booklet. This much more recently released budget version is just the same recording in new clothes and can be had for very little nowadays. I well remember paying, I think, £19.49 in a long-gone shop in Brighton; until some annoying person borrowed it and never gave it back, it was one of my favourite sets of the "Brandenburgs". Partly to reassure myself that my memory was as good as I hoped, I sent off for the second-hand box set from a marketplace seller and it arrived the other day for the grand price of £1.46, including postage.

Was my memory working as it should? Well, yes, I still find this a very good recording (better than Pinnock's rather prissy old "Archiv" set Bach: Brandenburg Concertos; Orchestral Suites), but there have been many more recordings since the late 1980s, and, it has to be said, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment set is showing its age.

I also dug out an old "Penguin Guide" (remember when they were really good?) to see what it said:-

"With the direction shared among four violinists, Monica Huggett (Nos 2,4 and 6), Catherine Mackintosh (No.1), Alison Bury (No.3) and Elizabeth Wallfisch (No.5), the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment presents an amiable set of "Brandenburgs" on period instruments. These performances do not carry authentic practice to the limit in either technique or choice of speeds but bring all the advantages of light, clear textures and no sense of haste, even when a movement is taken faster than has become traditional, as in the finales of Nos 2,4 and 5. With generally excellent recording, this makes a fair alternative to the outstanding version by Trevor Pinnock on DG Archiv; but the OAE ensemble, for all its comfortable ease of balance and interplay, as a rule cannot quite match that of the English Concert in crispness."

Well, I can't agree with the old "Penguin Guide" comments about Pinnock's old Archiv set (his more recent recording Bach: Brandenburg Concertos is a different kettle of fish), preferring either this OAE set, Koopman ( here Bach, Js : Brandenburg Concertos Nos 1 - 3 & Flute Concerto - Apex and here Bach, Js : Brandenburg Concertos Nos 4 - 6 & Orchestral Suite No.2 - Apex) or, at a pinch, Hogwood (here Bach: Brandenburg Concertos 1-6). All three of these recordings have rather more life about them, in my opinion, compared to the old Pinnock set.

But, a few years after this entertaining set came out, along came the entirely splendid Tafelmusik set (here Brandenburg Concertos) which, for me, relegated this OAE set from the top of the table, but that's another story.

In sum, and excellent and stimulating set of "Brandenburgs" and, I was pleased to find that my memory hadn't let me down after all!
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on 7 August 2014
So pleased to have received this for my Father as a present. Shipping was ultra quick. Very impressed. Thank you.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 January 2014
What a bargain -- period-performance-style Brandenburgs in excellent 1988 digital sound for under $10.00! And with the great Monica Huggett to boot. I've had this recording for some time, and I took it from my shelves to compare it to the almost contemporary (1986) I Musici account on Philips, which adheres to an older style, with heavier, less dance-like rhythms, more modern instruments, and a more integrated sound. I Musici have been in the business since c. 1950, they play beautifully, and they see no need, obviously, to become a different kind of group. Their account is very attractive, and the sound is stellar. But here, the whole thing dances, the instruments are less smooth in sound, so that you actually believe that there is friction on strings of the violins, for example. The strands of music are a bit more distinct, so that you can hear more clearly what Bach is weaving together -- and yet there's no sense of imperfect ensemble. I'm glad to have both this and the I Musici account in my collection, for what that says about performance history in my lifetime, but also (and mainly) because both are beautifully done in their respective ways.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 15 October 2009
A great recording of the Brandenburg Concertos, definitely worth adding to your collection of music, especially if you love J.S. Bach and baroque music.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 August 2014
This music is deep, blissful, powerful, sumptuous - it seems to float in the aether. I find it the perfect accompaniment when I am luxuriating in an aromatic bath. Try it yourself that way.

Choosing the Age of Enlightenment Orchestra recording helps keep your mind focused on the human dream. While you're listening everything seems right with the world.

I particularly love the trumpets in the earlier Concertos and the harpsichord in the later ones.

But the whole recording is simply - uh, simple. And simplicity is its true key. It is an immensely easy listen, made for the delight of all mankind.

Magnificent!
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