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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pioneering account stil worth hearing, 16 Jun 2013
Bacchus (Greater London - Surrey) - See all my reviews
Years ago, the Austrian conductor Felix Weingartner orchestrated Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata (an incredibly difficult piano work). A critic likened this exercise to getting to the summit of Everest by helicopter. I had similar thoughts when I listened to this recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos directed by Harnoncourt on original instruments and listening to Karajan's contemporaneous version of the same works with the incredibly slick Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

This recording was made in 1964 and I am sure must be the first to have been made on instruments made in Bach's day or copies of those instruments. At the time, there was no 'original instruments' industry and the levels of execution were not as polished as later performances. So you will get all the things that turn people off HIP performances. The strings lack the bloom that the Berlin Philharmonic enjoys. The natural valve-less trumpets and horns do not have perfect intonation and ease of production.

However, I absolutely love these performances, warts and all. There is a kind of honesty and integrity in them that sleek Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic somehow lack. Nothing sounds 'manufactured' - I feel that Bach's vision is more readily communicated. For one thing, you get far more notes - inner detail and part writing is exposed and the listener gets to register so much more music. Karajan, by comparison, tends to smother much of this detail.

Unlike in other HIP performances, these are not performed at a breakneck pace. There is a naturalness in all the tempi here and I found little to question.

Please don't take my comments on Karajan as criticism. I enjoyed his performances as well - the sounds are gorgeous and enjoyable in their turn.
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