JS Bach

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Portland Baroque Orchestra
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: Concertos for One, Two and Three Violins: BWV 1041-43, 1063 & 1064R
PERFORMER: Carla Moore, Rob Diggins, Jolianne von Einem (violin); Portland Baroque Orchestra/Monica Huggett (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: Portland Baroque Orchestra PB 501

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Bach’s D minor Double Violin Concerto and the concertos in E and A minor for solo violin make for pretty standard couplings on disc, but Monica Huggett’s Portlanders frame them imaginatively between two supersized specimens for three violins. The concluding D major, BWV 1064R, is a reconstruction derived from the Concerto for Three Harpsichords in C (itself probably a transcription of a triple violin concerto).

BWV 1063, meanwhile, may have started life as a work for three contrasting concertante instruments – following the example of Bach’s contemporary Heinichen, Christopher Hogwood realised a version spotlighting violin, flute and oboe. Violinist Huw Daniel however has reclaimed the concerto solely for his own instrument which is how Huggett chooses to present it here. The result is uneven. For all that the Siciliana second movement sports a graceful lilt at a tempo that keeps it gainfully on its toes, and a feather-light cadenza forges a winsome link into the Finale, some self-consciously scrupulous pointing of the phrasing (as in the Finale of its D major cousin) can sound a little laboured.

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The recorded sound emphasises a certain wiry muscularity, and intonation across the disc is not always ideally secure. The two solo concertos are mostly well founded if not especially illuminating, and it’s the celebrated Double Concerto that rides to the rescue with a fluently spirited first movement, easily flowing Largo ma non tanto, and incisively robust Finale. Rachel Podger’s Brecon Baroque-ers on Channel Classics dig deeper and with more accommodating warmth. Paul Riley