LABELS: EMI Reflexe
WORKS: Orchestral Suites BWV 1066-1069; Concerto for Flute, Violin and Harpsichord BWV 1044
PERFORMER: Christopher Krueger (flute), Daniel Stepner (violin), John Gibbons (harpsichord); Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra/Andrew Parrott
CATALOGUE NO: Reflexe CDS 7 54653 2 DDD
When I read that this ‘orchestra’ was actually one-to-a-part, I began to marshal all the scholarly arguments against such unauthenticity. At least for Suites 3 and 4, with their three trumpets and drums, Bach certainly didn’t use solo strings. Then I heard the discs – and most of my prejudices were charmed away by the transparent sound and wonderful richness of detail they revealed.
Although skilful engineering balances the forces, there’s a price to pay for such tonal clarity. The full ensemble has a woodier tone where woodwind are now a weightier proportion of the whole; I missed the string solo/tutti contrasts in the concerto-like overture of Suite 3. One strange interpretative decision is inconsistent ornamentation of the flute and bass canon in Suite 2, disguising – blemishing even – this contrapuntal tour de force.
Longer CDs now allow us a bonus with the Suites, here the Triple Concerto, which is played with great verve, and with remarkably clean intonation in the taxing unison of violin solo and lone orchestral first violin.
With nearly 20 other recordings currently available, this one earns a leading place through its uniquely fresh colours and the shapeliness and sense of purpose in Parrott’s direction. George Pratt