Top positive review
14 people found this helpful
on 7 February 2008
No-one can be sure exactly how many violin concertos Bach wrote. His concerto output consists of several works written for certain instruments, then re-arranged for others. The established canon of his concertos for violin is limited to those in E and a for solo violin, and a concerto for two violins in d. This CD features another double concerto in d, more usually heard in one of two guises: for two harpsichords in c or for violin and oboe in d.
To begin with the last concerto. I suspect that Bach originally conceived this work for harpsichords (although, again, no-one can be entirely sure, with so many original manuscripts now lost). The dramatic statement that forms the succinct opening opposes orchestral ritornello with the briefest of responses from soloists. The intended contrast is intensified by having completely different timbres of strings and keyboard. What is clear, however, is that as well as being a fine Baroque soloist, Andrew Manze is something of a musicologist. His own accompanying notes show a keen interest in Bach scholarship and he defends his decision to transpose (or 'restore', as he would say) the work up to d for this version for two violins.
Manze's style is highly individual. Some of his chords sound remarkably rustic. He uses the minimum vibrato. Moreover, he is not afraid to decorate the solo concertos - a practice that may irritate as many listeners as it satisfies. He usually reserves these elaborations for recapitulations, however, and defends his embellishments on the basis of Bach's own practice elsewhere. These decorations range from the minimal grace notes at the end of the opening Allegro of BWV1043 to the more extensive interventions in the first Allegro of BWV1042. Conservatively-minded listeners may want to look elsewhere but I find his practices, although verging at times on the overdone, both satisfying and justified.
The Academy of Ancient Music provide a competent supporting role, if a somewhat pared down one, with two desks of violins each for 1st and 2nd fiddles, a pair of violas and cellos, double bass and harpsichord. There is no place for lutes or theorboes, therefore.
Manze is always worth listening to in word and deed, and nowhere more so than here in this recording of exceptional music.