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CD Review

Johann Sebastian Bach

Violin Concertos

  • Concerto for Violin in A minor, BWV 1041
  • Concerto for Violin in E minor, BWV 1042
  • Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 *
  • Concerto for Violin in G minor, BWV 1056R
  • Concerto for Violin in D minor, BWV 1052R
Giuliano Carmignola, violin
* Mayumi Hirasaki, violin
Concerto Köln
Archiv 4792695
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I have been collecting CDs and writing about them for over a decade now, and I confess to never having heard a set of Bach's concertos for violin that I truly enjoyed as an overall achievement. For the most part, I find them either too heavy (Perlman on Warner) or mercilessly rushed (Hahn on Deutsche Grammophon). Naturally, there are countless recordings of these works, and some of them come closer to the mark than others, but these are pieces that suffer equally from "traditional" or "period" approaches.

Giuliano Carmignola's Four Seasons on Sony is still my absolute favorite reading of that evergreen opus, and this becomes my favorite set of Bach concertos. While swiftly paced on period instruments, Carmignola refuses to lose the singing, soulful qualities that define great Bach playing. Modern violinists, correctly recognizing that these works are not dirges, incorrectly blast through the music as a kind of stunt. The result is technically breathtaking but emotionally chilling. Here, the violinist brings as much warmth as he and his period forces can muster. The orchestral contributions are uniformly excellent. They steadfastly avoid the steely and mechanical feel of many recent Bach projects. Instead, the Concerto Köln follows the lead of their soloist and embraces a lovingly phrased approach.

The reconstructed concertos that end the disc sound fascinating as heard here, and Carmignola proves nothing short of dazzling. The sound favors the soloist, but all the important details are present. Furthermore, the continuo part is tastefully mixed; there are no unnecessary harpsichord concertos here. For pure musical pleasure and commitment in every bar, this disc earns a very easy recommendation.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman