Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Concerto in E, BWV 1053 (arr. Debretzeni); Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052 (arr. W Fischer
Kati Debretzeni (violin); English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
Soli Deo Gloria SDG732 70:15 mins
Listening to these deftly phrased, acutely sensitive, engagingly supple performances from Kati Debretzeni and 12 members of the English Baroque Soloists is to be reminded how far we have come in just a few decades regarding our understanding of this extraordinary music. Even as comparatively recently as the 1960s and ’70s, Bach’s concertos were invariably sounded with a well-upholstered, espressivo cantabile derived from the 19th-century tradition. It was this bold interpretative approach that seemed to define at the time how all canonic masterpieces (whatever their cultural provenance) should sound, and which proved perhaps the greatest obstacle to the initial acceptance of historically-informed practice (HIP). When played on an appropriate scale and in a manner closer to the kind of sounds Bach originally envisaged, the emotional impact of his music sounded (ironically) to many as though it had in some way been diminished.
One of the unfortunate tendencies of HIP on modern instruments is to take everything at breakneck speed, yet Debretzeni and John Eliot Gardiner demonstrate that the music dances more freely and engagingly at more moderate tempos, with bass lines kept as lithe and agile as their upper counterparts. And that is not all. Listen to the central Andante of the A minor Concerto (No. 1) and you will hear Gardiner hold those magical suspended harmonies with radiant affection. Debretzeni plays throughout with a naturalness and disarming simplicity – most notably in her skilful transcription of the BWV 1053 harpsichord concerto – that makes most other recorded versions feel decidedly effortful by comparison.