JS Bach: Concertos

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ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach: Concertos
WORKS: Violin Concert in E, BWV 1042; Concerto for Harpsichord in E, BWV 1053 (arr. violin in D); Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041; Concerto for two harpsichords in C minor, BWV 1060 (arr. for violin and harpsichord)
PERFORMER: Viktoria Mullova (violin); Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone (harpsichord)


Alongside excellent performances of two violin concertos, BWV 1042 and 1041, Viktoria Mullova and Ottavio Dantone play two new arrangements – a harpsichord concerto transcribed for violin, and the familiar oboe/violin ‘Double’ Concerto, here for violin and harpsichord. Nowadays, freed from the artificial constraints of anodyne ‘authenticity’ or pallid ‘purism’, such arrangements need no apology. Done stylistically, as here, they reflect Bach’s own common practice of recycling his music.

The Harpsichord Concerto BWV 1053, already an arrangement probably from oboe d’amore and strings, works splendidly for violin. Mullova plays the glorious ‘Siciliano’ second movement beautifully, while, tongue-in-cheek elaborations in the accompaniment lend a sense of uninhibited exuberance to the finale.

The ‘Double’ Concerto is less successful, harpsichord virtually lost under the weight of solo and orchestral strings, despite the violin taking much of the lyrical melody above a rippling keyboard accompaniment. With more than one-to-a-part accompaniment, this needs more sympathetic balancing in both playing and sound engineering.

The two original violin concertos match anything else on disc. They’re full of subtle detail in dynamics and phrasing – the orchestral motifs emerging and retreating in the middle section of BWV 1042 are captivating, and the stillness of the adagio is breathtaking.


George Pratt