Bach, J.S.: Brandenburg Concertos

Bach, J.S.: Brandenburg Concertos

John Eliot Gardiner

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Editor's Choice

Published a century after his death, the set of six Concerti Grossi that comprise Bach's Brandenburg Concertos show the composer at his prodigally inventive and sublimely accomplished best, serving up a veritable feast of entrancing melody, vivid colour and instrumental virtuosity. It's hard to imagine them being more sympathetically performed than here. Set down in London and Paris in 2009, this is a relatively recent offering from the English Baroque Soloists, a period-instrument group founded in 1978 by John Eliot Gardiner. Gardiner takes somewhat of a back seat here, leaving the musicians to self-direct four of the six works. A genuine tonic it is: not only does the playing combine vitality, grace and precision (there are star turns from the ensembles regular cohort, not least leader Katie Debretzeni) but Gardiner masterminds proceedings with unforced freshness, personable warmth and winning flair.
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Album review

“Listeners who like their period performances of the music of J.S. Bach to be played as fast as possible will rejoice at John Eliot Gardiner's quicksilver set of the Brandenburg Concertos with the English Baroque Soloists, because his need for speed is fully indulged here. Gardiner's electrifying tempos almost push his musicians to their capacity for quickness and accuracy, and perhaps a bit too much for comfort. For listeners, it may take sitting through the entirety of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, and perhaps even part of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, to acclimatize to the briskness and to get used to the staccato accentuation. But if this kind of high-energy playing appeals -- and there are undoubtedly fans of this super-brisk style of performing Baroque music -- then the set will be appreciated for its other authentic features. Gardiner keeps his forces lean and the instrumentation appropriate to its era, and ornamentation and other liberties of interpretation are in keeping with the best scholarship. This is definitely a historically informed set of the Brandenburgs, which counterbalances any number of other ahistorical performances of the past, which presented these concertos with sluggish tempos, modern instruments, and large string and wind sections that were far from nimble. Gardiner's approach is challenging and bracing, so this set should certainly be heard by anyone who studies these popular works. Whether one can embrace them fully is another matter, but they are definitely ear-opening experiences.”

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Record label



    1 October 2009