Bach: Brandenburg Concertos; Orchestral Suites, BWV 1066-9,

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Brandenburg Concertos; Orchestral Suites, BWV 1066-9,
PERFORMER: Taverner Players, Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra/Andrew Parrott
CATALOGUE NO: VBD 5 61726 2 Reissue (1989, 1993)
I doubt if many of us have found our ideal set of Brandenburgs, but most, I suspect, have settled on a favourite collection. The field is enormous, reflecting a wide range of performing styles as well as smaller discrepancies where some of the instruments themselves are concerned. These reissued recordings of the Brandenburgs are style-conscious, period-instrument performances which differ from one another, quite markedly. Andrew Parrott’s version was first issued ten years ago, the other by the Berlin-based Akademie für Alte Musik much more recently. For sheer refinement of thought and elegance of phrase Parrott’s set has few rivals, though some of the intellectual and artistic excitement that must have gone into its preparation seems a little chastened in the finished product. The Berlin players, on the other hand, suggest a livelier spontaneity and a greater willingness to get their feet wet. In other words, they are happy to throw caution to the winds, which Parrott and his players are certainly not prepared to do. Each approach has its own virtues. Parrott never lets us down in his lightly articulated performances and stylistically consistent concept of the music, although he is less successful than the Berlin musicians in always conveying its expressive warmth and rhythmic vitality. But there are curious flights of fancy, from time to time, such as a rambling improvised harpsichord solo between the two written out movements of the Third Concerto, which strike a note of stylistic impropriety in the Berlin set. While both versions will always find a welcome on my shelves, alternatives by Trevor Pinnock (DG Archiv), and the Camerata of the 18th Century (MDG) are more consistently satisfying. Both sets under review include Bach’s four Orchestral Suites, Parrott’s set further containing other miscellaneous items. Nicholas Anderson