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Brandeburg Concertos 1-6.
Concerto for four harpsichords, BWV 1065,
Harpischord Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052,
Violin Concerto no.1 in A minor, BWV 1041,
Violin Concerto no 2 in F, BWV 1042.
Musica Antiqua Koln, Reinhard Goebel (Brandenburg Concertos), The English Consort, Trevor Pinnock (harpischord) with Kenneth Gilbert, Lars Ulrick Mortenson and Nicholas Kraemer (harpischords) and Simon Standage (violin).
DG Panorama series 469 103-2 . 2 CDs Approx. price £8-50 set.

Reinhard Goebel is a very exciting conductor of early music. His performances of the Brandenburgs has received just praise and some criticism . His choice of tempi is often said to be too fast but I will tell you it is absolutely stunning. The Brandenburg no. 3 is extraordinarily fast and quite different from any other performance and yet it is not a scramble. The articulation is truly amazing. The elegance and grace of Bach is never lost, but if you have been brought up on slow, tedious and Teutonic Bach with sickly affectation then you will love these accounts. Goebel's allegros are often prestos and his allegro moderatos are often allegro moltos . But it really works. Dull Bach is simply awful. This isn't

Take the first Brandenburg. It is superbly played with a faultless balance. The tempi are fine . [here is a right judgement of attack and style. There is an excellent blend of instrumentation so that the prominent horns do not drown the rest of the ensemble. There is spotless clarity and the transparent texture is never weak.. .and, please note, no trace of that annoying trend of baroque correctness and alleged authenticity.

The slow movement has a wonderful atmosphere with the oboes and then the unbelievably gorgeous violin solo work.. And how well Goebel avoids the heavy bass line so prominent in those merchants who advocate Bach correctness. The second allegro is full of life and energy but without excess and maintaining a marvellous clarity. The finale is a minuet with two trios and a polacca section. I think Bach should have placed this movement third not last. It is an episodic piece but watch out for the horn writing.

No one is perfect and Goebel does employ rallentandos at the end of some movements.

The second Concerto is full of joy and is soul-stirring in the two fast movements. The andante is very thoughtful and the woodwind excel. The final has a few glorious snarls in it.

The Fourth Concerto is the most human of them with the breathy sound of the 'flute". The final presto buzzes. It is all so very exciting. The opening movement of the Fifth Concerto is a gem and the lower strings of number six make this concerto sound the most mature.

Trevor Pinnock takes over the concert. The Concerto for four harpischords seems a daft combination as you are not aurally aware that there are four harpischords. The middle movement, largo, is the jewel. It is almost operatic in gesture and has a toccata-like section which is brought off beautifully. The finale is robust.

Pinnock, a superb Bachian, is the soloist in the Concerto in D minor which is given a clean, crisp performance but this is the type of Bach composition that people may not respond to. It is an awful lot of notes, what I call note-spinning, and nothing much else. It has little to say as music, but Pinnock's playing is masterly so that all one can do is admire..... or envy.

Simon Standage gives good performances of the violin concertos without fuss or affectation. Both are very well played but the E major concerto is the finer work and therefore encourages us to listen and value Standage's playing.

A bargain. Snap it up

The recordings were originally made between 1981 and 1987.

In Goebel and Pinnock we have the best Bach interpreters since the ground-breaking work of the legendary Karl Munchinger whose Bach, for me, still remains the best.

David Wright



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