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CD Review

Johann Sebastian Bach

Concerts plusieurs instruments

  • Brandenburg Concerto #1
  • Brandenburg Concerto #3
  • Brandenburg Concerto #4
  • Brandenburg Concerto #5
  • Cadenza (1st version) from Brandenburg Concerto #5
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
Naïve LA Collection NC40030 67m
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Also available as a complete set Naïve OP30412:
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These are simply fabulous performances, readings on period instruments that manage to retain a singing quality that makes the music come alive. Not once are phrases mindlessly clipped, nor are movements needlessly rushed. No, this is as vital and emotionally giving a set as you'll find using modern scholarship, and one regrets that all six concertos aren't present. But the sound is rich and detailed, and the playing is superlative. So there isn't much to complain about.

Each and every movement here feels like it has been given a facelift. Everything feels so fresh, so invigorating. Soloists work so well together, and you really get a feel for the genius behind the counterpoint. I owned this for a few months before reviewing, and I had listened to some other versions before turning back to this one. I need not have bothered. While the famous Concerto #2 isn't here, I found myself caring less and less as the Concerto #3 blew me away. I've never much liked the work, finding it clunky and foursquare prior to the whirlwind finale. Not here! And speaking of that finale, it's effortlessly controlled and never feels too fast. Even at this speed, beauty of tone is never sacrificed. You'll love it.

Attention to detail is everywhere; the Concerto #4 has rarely sounded so playful, with all inner voices given their due. Thanks to a keen understanding of dynamics, these readings are also full of a sense of excitement and discovery. Violin playing throughout is astounding, while Rinaldo Alessandrini's harpsichord thankfully stays a partner as opposed to a master of ceremonies. Conversely, when he's supposed to steal the show, he does in a staggering Concerto #5. There is a joyful playfulness here that we too often forget is just as much a part of Bach as in his profound spirituality. The original cadenza proves this point, a sheer romp that makes the jaw drop. My only complaint is that this series has the oddest liner notes; to get to the English portion, you have to unfold them like an unwieldy map. But everything else is almost perfect. Really, among the many choices on disc, few truly marry Bach's musical genius with his generosity of expression this well. This is an exceptional disc.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman