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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 June 2013
Five CAPTIVATING Stars This 2013 Onyx Classics recording reunites award-winning violin virtuoso Viktoria Mullova, one of today's supreme Bach interpreters, and acclaimed Baroque director/keyboardist Ottavio Dantone on excellent recordings of 4 concertos that are musically scintillating, intellectually interesting in the pairing, and in two instances, exceptional. Dantone directs his Accademia Bizantina on these pieces and plays harpsichord. It's been over 15 years since Mullova gave us her excellent interpretations of Bach's violin concertos in A Minor BWV 1041 and E Major BWV 1042 performed with her own Mullova Ensemble on Bach: Violin Concertos. Now we not only get the benefit of her years of additional Bach study and performances which she says have altered her perspective, but in recent times, Mullova has switched from metal strings to Baroque-tuned gut strings and the use of a Baroque bow to heighten her transcendental Bach experiences. In addition to the customary A Minor and E Major concertos, they perform Bach's Concerto for Two Harpsichords in C Minor BWV 1060, arranged for violin and harpsichord, and Concerto for Harpsichord BWV 1053 originally in E major for harpsichord, here transcribed into a so-called "brighter" key of D major for violin. Ottavio Dantone states "this unprecedented version works very well, enriching the composition with a range of new nuances." And so it does.

These performances are uniformly excellent throughout, with Mullova, Dantone, and the Accademia excelling especially at the slower, lovely Adagio, Andante, and the marvelous lyrical Siliciano middle movements, but the fiery uptempo movements are no less compelling: her blazing power passages in both Allegro movements of the E Major BWV 1053 harpsichord concerto, benefiting greatly from the D Major key change, are mesmerizing, as are both of the transcribed Allegro movements of the Concerto for Two Harpsichords in C Minor, where Dantone's keyboard work shines in duo and continuo. In summary, on this recording Ms. Mullova, Sig. Dantone and the Accademia Bizantina play spirited, dynamic, nuanced, and ultimately enjoyable customary and transcribed Bach concertos which are vividly recorded. Viktoria Mullova is an artist absolutely at the top of her game and, with the prior CD recording in rare supply, going 'on the record' with these Bach recordings for posterity from her 2013 viewpoint. My Highest Recommendation. Five INSPIRED Stars!
(12 tracks; Time: 60:30. No information is given on Mullova's violin and set up, so it's assumed she's still using her 1750 Guadagnini, not her "Jules Falk" Stradivarius, with gut strings and a Barbiero baroque bow.)
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This is an excellent disc of Bach's A minor and E major concertos for violin and two transcriptions of harpsichord concertos. They are all terrific works, wonderfully played here by Mullova, Dantone and Accademia Bizantina.

The two transcriptions are often played as violin concertos: BWV1053 as here for solo violin and BWV1060 for two violins or, more commonly, for violin and oboe. Here it is transcribed for violin and harpsichord and is the one slightly weaker aspect of the disc, I think. The transcription is excellent and Mullova and Dantone play beautifully, but the imbalance in sound between the violin and harpsichord makes some of the call-and-response passages especially seem a little thin. Nonetheless, it's a terrifically enjoyable work whatever it's played on and I don't want to carp too much.

The performances are simply terrific throughout from soloists and orchestra. Mullova has a direct, slightly sinewy approach and remarkable precision which, as others have said, is rather different from that in Rachel Podger's excellent recordings. I love both, and here I really enjoy the insistent pulse and quite brisk tempi of the outer movements and the quite remarkable depth and almost stillness at times in the slower central movements. Mullova's technique is brilliant so that the whole thing sounds effortlessly natural and the ensemble are just as good, being supple and responsive throughout, and there is real intellectual weight underpinning the often foot-tappingly enjoyable music. It's a lovely programme.

I already had several well-loved recordings of all these works by some great performers including Rachel Podger, Andrew Manze, Simon Standage and others. This stands very well among them and even if you are in a similar position I would warmly recommend this - it's an exceptionally good disc which will complement your others very well and give pleasure for years to come.

(I would also very warmly recommend Viktoria Mullova's other Bach recordings:
The Solo Paritas and Sonatas Bach: 6 Sonatas & Partitas
and the accompanied Sonatas (with Dantone again) Bach - Violin Sonatas
Both are simply fantastic.)
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on 16 September 2013
Not since Milstein and Heifitz have we heard such wondrous playing by the world's hardiest virtuoso violinist. Phrasing, voicing, all of the highest order and unsurpassed by any of the leading fiddle players of this day.
a virtuos with an inspired musical interlect without equal.
Highest recommendation!
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on 28 November 2013
I heard Mullova play this program at Wigmore Hall and then bought the disc. She has a unique sound which is authentic and is complemented by the harpiscord beautifully, but it is all her own.
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on 3 November 2014
A good reccording but not the top of it.
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