Bach: Brandenburg Concertos; Concerto, BWV 1050a; Triple Concerto, BWV 1044

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: Brandenburg Concertos; Concerto, BWV 1050a; Triple Concerto, BWV 1044
PERFORMER: La Stravaganza/Siegbert Rampe
CATALOGUE NO: VCD 5 45255 2
This set’s two CDs were recorded two years apart, at different venues, with different personnel, at different pitches and with the fleet tempi of the earlier session (on CD2) later pushed to extremes. Such anomalies presumably explain why the sessions have been kept on separate discs, although this disrupts the concertos’ usual order. CD1, for example, has Concerto No. 1 followed by Nos 3, 6 and 2, an arrangement that blithely ignores Rampe’s booklet argument that Bach probably closed the set with the Sixth Concerto, ‘because the hunting character of the finale brings us full circle to the horn signals of the First Concerto’.

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Rampe has recorded the concertos at ‘French pitch’, common in Bach’s time and around a whole tone lower than standard pitch. (CD2 is actually at a slightly lower ‘French pitch’ than CD1.) He claims this results in a ‘softer, warmer, more mellow’ sound, though I think it also dulls the music’s bright sparkle and is anyway undermined by the harsh, driven tempi on CD1, where a murky ensemble sound doesn’t help.

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The set does offer attractive bonus items in Bach’s first version of Concerto No. 5 (BWV 1050a) and the much later Triple Concerto, but overall it bears no comparison to the excellent Brandenburg Concertos available from Koopman, Kuijken, Pickett and, still my top choice, Pinnock (Archiv). Graham Lock