Bach: Brandenburg Concertos BWV 1046, 1047, 1048, 1049, 1050, 1051

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LABELS: Hanssler
WORKS: Brandenburg Concertos BWV 1046, 1047, 1048, 1049, 1050, 1051
PERFORMER: Oregon Bach Festival CO/Helmuth Rilling
CATALOGUE NO: 98927 DDD (distr. Select)
Helmuth Rilling’s reputation has been founded on his Bach recordings. No living conductor has made as many as he and few have been either as candid or as single-minded in their defence of modern instruments against the onward march of period ones. Thankfully, he has stopped short of substituting flute for recorder in Concertos Nos 2 and 4 and cello for viola da gamba in No. 6. This is Rilling’s first recording of the six Brandenburg Concertos and initial impressions are favourable. Much more thought usual has been given to clear articulation and affective phrasing, textures are lucid, standards of execution are high and, taken together, these virtues result in performances of refinement and suavity. Some movements come over extraordinarily well – Trio II of No. 1, and the whole of No. 2 are notably successful and the solo violin playing of Kathleen Lenski in Nos 4 and 5 is praiseworthy. Yet much else in the set is dogged by expressive blandness and, above all in Brandenburg No. 3, spongy, lacklustre and on occasion rhythmically unsettled playing. But perhaps the most stylistically intrusive features are the vacuous additional embellishments which appear in several movements and which have no musical relevance or propriety at all, and some absurd dynamic contrasts such as those which appear at the conclusion of No. 4. Nicholas Anderson