Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto no. 4 in G major BWV 1049, Concerto no 5 in D major BWV 1050,
Concerto in A minor BWV 1044, Concerto in F major BWV 1057.
Orchestra, Helmut Müller-Bruhl
This disc represents Volume 7 of Bach's complete orchestral works in the
Naxos Originals-Transcriptions-Reconstructions series. The useful accompanying
notes by Peter Wollny make reference to Bach's regular tendency to arrange
earlier works in different instrumentations and we here have the opportunity
to compare directly the Brandenburg Concerto no. 4 in G major with
its later transcription in the form of the Concerto in F major BWV 1057
for two recorders, harpsichord strings and basso continuo.
The soloists all appear to be relatively young (three at least being born
in the 1970s) and it is good to see that they are credited with brief biographies
in the booklet which is not always the case with Naxos artists.
The disc opens with the fourth of the Brandenburgs in a spirited performance
with the outer two movements being perhaps the most successful and demonstrating
some impressively taut playing from the recorder and violin soloists. For
my taste the central Andante could have been played with a little more
imagination in terms of contrast and dynamics but overall the ensemble is
good and the performance has much to enjoy. I would recommend that listeners
skip from here, as I did, to listen to the work's transcription, which is
the final work on the disc. This may be a transcription but the genius of
the composer is immediately apparent. For the main part the string and recorder
parts remain unchanged but the harpsichord part, idiomatically created from
the original violin part, coupled with the shift down a tone in key, give
the concerto a different character. Once again there is a lively sense of
rhythm in the opening movement and, in this performance at least, I felt
that the central andante had a greater feeling of poise than the earlier
version with violin.
The Brandenburg No. 5 comes off well with a particularly poignant
central Affetuoso. The stunning harpsichord cadenza in the opening movement
feels a little heavy handed in places but overall a creditable performance.
Finally then the Concerto in A minor, BWV 1044, more commonly known
as the "Triple" Concerto. Scored for a solo combination of
flute, violin and harpsichord this is an extraordinary work. Again, Bach
has transcribed earlier material, this time using solo organ or harpsichord
works and constructing completely new solo and orchestral parts around them.
It here receives a committed performance, full in texture, with the soloists,
in particular, Robert Hill on harpsichord, acquitting themselves well. The
final Alla breve is worthy of particular praise.
I would not expect this disc to prompt dedicated Bach enthusiasts to discard
their treasured recordings of these works. However, it has much to commend
in the spirit of the playing which conveys a refreshing sense of youthfulness
and vigour. The recording is a co-production with Deutschland Radio of Cologne
and the engineers have faithfully captured a full sound which undoubtedly
adds to the disc.