No set of concertos affords the listener such a wonderfully varied spectrum of instrumental colour as that which Bach assembled for, and dedicated to, the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1721. And Bach’s inspired exploration of the infinitely varied possibilities inherent in Italian concerto form allows the performer an interpretative scope of comparable dimension. Recordings of the six Brandenburgs abound, and so a newcomer will be scrutinised both for executive prowess and for a fresh view of Bach’s music. But while accomplished performance is of the essence, an over-zealous attempt to introduce something of novelty value can be the downfall of an otherwise worthy enterprise.
Konrad Hünteler and the Camerata of the 18th Century avoid solecism and excessive idiosyncracy, giving careful thought to each strand of Bach’s delicately wrought textures. Such attention to detail pays off handsomely in the first two concertos of the set, where brass, woodwind and strings speak with effortless refinement, without either overstatement or misplaced rivalry.
The Third and Fourth Concertos are taut in ensemble and elegantly phrased, while the Fifth benefits from a fine concertino group and sensibility to ornament. The Sixth Concerto seems a little routine by comparison, but then one’s expectations of this softly coloured, intimate piece are limitless. All in all, a satisfying set. Nicholas Anderson