Johann Sebastien Bach: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor; Violin Concerto No. 2 in E; in D minor for Two Violins; Concerto in D minor for Oboe, Violin, Strings and Continuo, BWV 1060

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COMPOSERS: Johann Sebastien Bach
LABELS: Philips
ALBUM TITLE: J. S. Bach
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor; Violin Concerto No. 2 in E; in D minor for Two Violins; Concerto in D minor for Oboe, Violin, Strings and Continuo, BWV 1060
PERFORMER: Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Akiko Suwanai (violin); with Volkhard Steude (violin), François Leleux (oboe
CATALOGUE NO: 475 6934
This is Bach playing so smooth that you can almost see your face in it. Every note is polished to perfection, and it’s almost as if the revolution of period instrument performance had never happened. I say almost, because there is sometimes a tendency to swell through long notes, and tempos are generally fast in the outer movements. Otherwise it’s bland in the extreme – the first movement of the Double Violin Concerto purrs along like a well-oiled machine, and the Largo plumbs the depths of sentimentality with swooning rubato and dynamics. The worst comes in the finale with an overblown and truly dreadful cadenza by Joseph Hellmesburger, which revisits the themes of the work at great length and to no conceivable purpose.

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In the solo concertos there’s the same emphasis on beauty of legato sound at the expense of any life-giving phrasing, and even though the finale of the E major Concerto goes at tremendous lick, it’s strangely lacking in energy. Nigel Kennedy, in his recording of the same four works, also favoured fast speeds, but at least he brought a real sense of articulation to the music, giving it an energy which eludes Suwanai. Things perk up a little in the Violin and Oboe Concerto, where Leleux turns some elegant phrases, but for most of the time this CD is the aural equivalent of a warm bath. Martin Cotton.