Bach: Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041; Violin Concerto in E, BWV 1042; Concertos for Two Violins, BWV 1043 & 1060

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041; Violin Concerto in E, BWV 1042; Concertos for Two Violins, BWV 1043 & 1060
PERFORMER: Rachel Podger (violin), Academy of Ancient Music/Andrew Manze (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907155
The Academy of Ancient Music is heard here in the first fruits of its new recording collaboration with Harmonia Mundi, and with a newly appointed associate director/concertmaster. Andrew Manze is a violinist with extraordinary flair and improvisatory freedom, the Grappelli of the Baroque. Confronting his every challenge in the two double concertos is Rachel Podger: a spoof photograph in the booklet shows them duelling – with violin bows.

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The result is a wonderfully heady mix: unparalleled energy, an irresistibly bounding pulse and sparkling articulation from top to bottom of the texture – the soloists and the 16 strings and harpsichord of the AAM. Manze characteristically can’t resist an occasional high-spirited ornament even in the familiar fugal ritornello of the D minor double concerto, BWV 1043, and the glorious duet of the slow movement is gradually intensified with gentle decorations, never distortions, of the solo lines.

The second double concerto is a putative but convincing variant of the familiar concerto for violin and oboe. Manze makes a valid case for the change, as also for borrowing some figurations, in the E major concerto, from Bach’s harpsichord transcription of it.

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Initially I questioned the close sound, but such immediacy is essential to communicate the total commitment of this inspired ensemble. George Pratt