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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

on 10 March 2008
Opening this box set is rather like opening a time capsule marked Early Music Revival 1956 - 1973. It is a pleasurable experience.

Although the direction of Yehudi Menuhin is the constant binding these recordings together there is some variation in their quality. To my ears the better the soloists for a piece, the better the whole recording sounds, as if the other players and sound engineers were being enthused by them to give of their best. The Violin Concertos with Menuhin playing Violin stand out. So does the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto with Chris and Richard Taylor on the recorders. Mind you, the Orchestral Suites are excellent as well, with or without the fine flautist Elaine Shaffer. I like the lively way with the harpsichord and base strings. Yes, these players know their jazz and turn the continuo parts into walking bass lines. And it sounds a hundred times better that some stiff performances that are delivered today. There are modern conductors who appear to begin a rehearsal with the words `Ladies and Gentlemen, we gather here today not to play Bach but to bury him!" No such thing here!

There are some ropey moments. The instruments can sound shrill compared to more modern recordings - no doubt that is due to better ways of recording available today. There is the odd fluffed note that would no doubt be extinguished by overdubbing today. But I like the authentic feel .

Many people comment on the relative lack of real authenticity of these recordings compared to current `Period performances'. As the notes in the booklet provided make clear, these performances reflect several generations of progressively more authentic performing of Bach. Listening to some current discs I cannot help feeling that a large part of the Early Music fraternity has been infected with a kind of musical autism which leads them to demand the replication of the period in question in terms of exact instruments, numbers of instruments per part, technique, phrasing etc to the exclusion of any feeling being allowed to be conveyed in the performance. In comparison these performances come from a time where a happy balance was achieved. There is a reasonable authenticity to these performances, but the musicians are still able to be real musicians giving real interpretations with real feeling.

So - I give you the EMI Bach/Menhuin set. Perfect it ain't, but there's life in these discs! Jolly Old Bach! Would you really prefer a more solemn version?
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VINE VOICEon 3 August 2004
I know of no CD issue that packs as much of the orchestral music of J S Bach into one budget-priced box as this issue. Active in and inspiring the performances of all but two of the works is Yehudi Menuhin. He directs these performances while playing either violin or viola. He also attracts eminent fellow instrumentalists to contribute as required, so that the roster reads like a Who's Who of EMI recording artists of the period.
And what is the period? The recordings were made between 1956 and 1973. Ears attuned to contemporary styles of Bach performance will hear things that are different here. Period instruments are not used (if you accept violas da gamba as not strictly "period"). Warmth and affection rather than authenticity and precision characterize performances. The engineering seems aimed at balancing Bach's contrapuntal textures so that everything can be heard, rather than capturing what occurs in actual performance. Accordingly, the harpsichord contributions are audibly prominent, and sometimes they have the capacity to swell and fade in ways that Wanda Landowska might even have thought excessive.
Remastering was done in the 1990s and this compilation was released in 2001.
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on 14 July 2009
There's no such thing as a definitive Bach boxed set, and all these pieces will appear in Bach-lovers' collections in many different versions, played and recorded in different ways according to the fashions of the times. This is another that should be on the shelves, with some great individual soloists as well as Menuhin, and a lovely '1960s' feel. And it's astonishingly good value for money
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on 22 August 2005
Overall I must say this set is certainly worth buying. However there is one mistake that customers should be aware of. On CD 6 Tracks 4-6 are from the concerto for two harpsichords in C MAJOR (BWV1061) not C MINOR and consequently tracks 7-9 are from the concerto for two harpsichords in C MINOR (BWV1060) not C MAJOR. I haven't found any other errors in the set and this is hardly a major blight on the listeners' experience but it is worth being aware of.
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