The collaboration of Pinchas Zukerman and the English
Chamber Orchestra has yielded many rewarding recordings and concerts
over the years, and it is good to have these ten-year-old performances
back in the catalogue in this remastered edition. In addition to the
'standard' Bach violin concertos, he plays two less well known Vivaldi
items which have also been less widely available previously; they were
recorded in 1992, two years later than the Bach works, and issued separately.
Zukerman's approach in this repertoire is well known.
He is stylistically aware but opts for 'modern' pitch and instruments
rather than 'period'. The balances of the recordings tend to place him
forward in the perspective, as so often in concerto recordings by star
performers. Therefore the solo violin sometimes has a larger than life
quality which is not entirely to the advantage of the music. The sound
is good, however, and allows details to be heard as well as giving a
rich, satisfying sonority in tuttis.
Tempi seem appropriately chosen throughout the collected
concertos. The Double Concerto has a true partnership of equals thanks
to the excellent playing of Jose-Luis Garcia, and the listener will
be hard put to tell the two soloists apart. This is precisely how Bach
would have wished it.
The generous programme allows for the inclusion of
a transcribed concerto, one of those Bach probably wrote in Cöthen,
but which was subsequently lost, having been arranged as a harpsichord
concerto in the early 1730s for a performance at the Collegium Musicum
in Leipzig. Zukerman's performance of this piece is particularly alert
and enjoyable. It is always worth investigating Bach's different versions
of the same piece, and this is highly entertaining.
In the company of Bach, the two little known Vivaldi
concertos seem less inspired. They are still very skilful compositions,
of course, but the inspiration seems on a lower level. The booklet gives
useful information on all the music, but for some unaccountable reason
is printed on patterned grey paper, rendering it more difficult to read
than it would otherwise be.