Magazine article Gramophone

JS Bach: Brandenburg Concertos

Magazine article Gramophone

JS Bach: Brandenburg Concertos

Article excerpt

JS Bach

Brandenburg Concertos, BWV1046-1051

Concerto Koln

Berlin Classics [M] (2) 0300593BC (89' * DDD)

No tempo direction for the first movements of Nos 1-3 and 6. By tradition it could be a fast pace. But how fast? Hark back to Alfred Cortot (the first-ever recordings in 1931-33) and he offers the slowest speeds. That of No 3, for example, at 73 beats, lasts eight minutes. In comparison, Rinaldo Alessandrini fixes on 110 and Concerto Koln 114--a marked upward swing across 80 years; and the trend influences all the concertos. Then there is pitch, brought down to an 'historically informed' figure varying between A=430 and 415 until Richard Egarr chose 392, French Baroque pitch used in Germany at the time. Concerto Koln follow suit.

Their playing is technically remarkable. But with few exceptions--the finales of Nos 4 and 5 which are not scurried, the Affettuoso of No 5 very expressive--these performances all too often reflect only a sound-facsimile of the notes. Tempos are swift but are rarely enlivening because rhythm is unyielding; and a rigid drive leaves little room for dynamic shading or varying harmonic emphasis. Certain movements--the first of No 2, the third of No 3, the first and third of No 6--feel hustled. …

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