Top critical review
One person found this helpful
Consistently good but rather staid--where's the usual Marriner zest?
on 24 January 2017
Having heard about the virtues of this set for many years (decades actually), I finally bought it. After all, I thought I knew what I'd be getting with Marriner--the same thing I got in his Haydn symphonies nos. 44 and 48, his William Boyce symphonies, or his Prokofiev Classical symphony or Bizet in C: performances brimming with energy, drama, and high spirits, but which are never rushed and never become tense or breathless in the slightest. The performances in this set are good--make no mistake about that--but they're not what I expected. Marriner's Bach seems respectful and rather staid at times, avoiding too strong a sense of energy or too much rollicking good humor. (In fact, "elegant and courtly," as used in reviews above, would most likely be read as "boring" if used to describe performances of Beethoven or Mahler. Why do we imagine Bach's music is so different?) The 3rd and the 5th in particular here disappointed me slightly in this respect, with opening-movement tempos a little too much on the reserved side. But this set does have the virtue of being consistently good throughout, whereas so many others have one or two outstanding performances and others that are flawed in some respect.
I think the best thing about buying this set was that it got me to listen again to the set by Richard Egarr. While that set features period instruments, it is anything but thin and dry-sounding, and in fact sounds more colorful and richly textured than this Marriner set. And the tempos are livelier but again without ever seeming tense or breathless. That one has my highest recommendation.