Monica Huggett is one of the finest period violinists around. And there is much excellent playing from her on this disc so those who are already Huggett fans need not hesitate. I think that there are two main attractions to this disc: 1 The Irish Baroque orchestra plays with 1 per part for the 4th Brandenburg and the sinfonia extract. Whatever one thinks about the "authenticity" of 1pp, it makes for fascinating listening as there is a very intimate, clear textured, chamber-music sound to these familiar pieces. In the other works there are 7 violins and 3 violas, 3 cellos, but there is still an admirable clarity that allows all the counterpoint - particularly in lower string parts - to emerge. 2 The J B Bach suite is presumably rarely played/recorded as the product of a lesser Bach than JS, but it is a very good piece none the less - much more interesting than virtually any Handel for comparable forces.
Why 4 not 5 stars? There is some slowing down, pauses and tempi changes that are just far too mannered and which distort the rhythm and pulse far too much. This is particularly annoying on the ear in the great double concerto BWV 1043. One might forgive some hammy dramatics and messing about in lesser works that need an injection of drama (Vivaldi Telemann) to keep modern ears interested, but it is unacceptable in top flight Bach works. Also the period with a capital P habit of squeezing crescendos into every sustained note whilst eschewing vibrato can tire the ear in slower movements. The slow movement of BWV 1043 is very nicely played in parts, at a somewhat faster than usual tempo, but compared to the gloriously inauthentic Oistrakh and son recording (DG) one misses the sheer beauty of sound and the heavenly sense of the overlapping solo parts unfurling endlessly and so one is not completely transported by the performance as a 5 star rating requires (in my view).
Still good period versions of the double concerto are surprisingly thin on the ground - this version is as good as any period version I have heard.
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