JS Bach Violin Concertos, BWV 1041-1042
Dr Peter Wollny’s CD liner notes include a reminder that these two solo violin concertos and the so-called ‘double concerto’ are precious remnants of a far larger repertoire of lost orchestral works. Their interwoven textures are unmistakably Bachian – significantly, he entitled the Double Violin Concerto BWV 1043 a ‘Concerto à 6’, implying a work of chamber music with soloists and orchestra tightly integrated.
The 15 strings of the Freiburger Barockorchester (from whom the three soloists are drawn) create a fine, clean sound as they share and alternate fragmentary motifs. They are well-served by excellent recording, the spotlight sensitively illuminating Bach’s uniquely complex motivic interplay; the earlier E major Concerto BWV 1042 is wonderfully crafted in this respect, its opening three notes saturating the accompaniment.
The sheer energy of the playing is gripping. Bach’s student orchestra, the Collegium Musicum Leipzig, must have included some highly talented young players. Occasionally the phrasing seems exaggerated: in the Double Violin Concerto, the held tied note in the opening phrase bulges crudely in the upper parts (the bass line then wisely rejects this idea) while the slow movement’s expressive accents may disturb the ethereal calm too much for some tastes.
The lost ‘triple concerto’ is rescued – transcribed from the extant three-harpsichord Concerto whose keyboard parts are strikingly violinistic. It’s stunning. The high-spirited opening is driven on by its bounding syncopations, the density of three soloists and orchestra penetrated by the transparent interplay of motifs and exuberant sequences, while the finale overflows with mad-cap virtuosity. I’d buy the disc for this alone – and the rest will still be a splendid bonus.