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Symphonies of the Bach Family

Berliner Barock Solisten/Reinhard Goebel (Hänssler Classic)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Symphonies of the Bach Family
Works by CPE, JCF, JE, JL, JS and WF Bach
Berliner Barock Solisten/Reinhard Goebel
Hänssler Classic HC 21029   63:37 mins

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Reinhard Goebel has never been one to shun the provocative. When his period-instrument ensemble Musica Antiqua Köln recorded Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos back in the 1980s the finale of No. 3 set a new land speed record. Nowadays he’s happy to assert that ‘the fetish of the “original instrument” has had its day…it’s not the instrument that makes the music but the head’. To a certain extent he has a point, of course. But where would the St Matthew Passion be without the pungent sounds of oboes d’amore and da caccia; or what can match the woody melancholy of the transverse flute or the viola da gamba in the music of the French Baroque? Since 2018 Goebel has been artistic director of the Berliner Barock Solisten who espouse modern instruments. Let the arguments rage!

His latest foray into the music of the Bach dynasty makes a beeline for the sinfonia and musters no fewer than four premiere recordings including two sinfonias by CPE Bach who, alas, is not at his idiosyncratic best; there’s a symphony by Wilhelm Friedemann that springs a few aural ambushes but is otherwise fairly unremarkable; and, best of all, his father’s reworking (BWV 1045) of a movement showcasing a virtuosic solo violin bouncing off two oboes, three trumpets and timps. Overall, despite Goebel’s idiomatic fluency and fastidious attention to detail, a certain polished proficiency prevails, the playing elegant, incisive, but somewhat anonymous. There’s no denying BWV 1045’s high-gloss finish, but Isabelle Faust and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin on Harmonia Mundi find an edgy exhilaration that takes the fragment to another level.

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Paul Riley