> JS Bach - Brandenburg Concertos [KM]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Brandenburg Concertos
Orchestral Suites
Triple Concerto for flute, violin, harpsichord and strings

CD1 [79.09]
Brandenburg Concertos Nos.1–5 BWV 1046–1050
CD2 [66.28]
Brandenburg Concertos No.6 BWV 1051
Orchestral Suites Nos.1–2 BWV 1066–7
CD3 [68.42]
Orchestral Suite Nos. 3-4 BWV 1068-9
Triple Concerto for flute, violin, harpsichord and strings BWV 1044
Münchner Bach Orchester, Karl Richter
Rec: 1961 (BWV 1066-9), 1968 (BWV 1046-51), 1981 (BWV 1044)
ARCHIV 463 657-2 [214.09]

Karl Richter’s recordings of Bach’s orchestral and sacred music influenced an entire generation of musicians and listeners, presenting the conductor’s unique sound and style. When Richter recorded Bach’s works, he freed them from a ponderous tradition that had mired the music in romantic sounds and idiom. Richter lightened Bach’s music, and, with an orchestra of outstanding musicians, helped bring it toward the more modern interpretations that listeners have become familiar with today. This is still a bit far from the historically-informed performances that are pretty much the norm, but there is a unity and natural originality that comes through the music in these recordings.

This set includes Richter’s excellent recordings of the Brandenburg concertos, the Orchestral Suites, and the Triple Concerto for flute, violin, harpsichord and strings. In the Brandenburgs, Richter provides a light, airy sound for the strings, very different from what was common in the 1960s. His tempi, relatively quick, give the music vigour it had not known perhaps for some 200 years. The instruments take their rightful place here as soloists in an ensemble, and the balance among them is exemplary. Rare indeed, even today, are the conductors who manage to play the Second Concerto with such joy and brio as Richter. Each instrument - the trumpet, the flute, and the oboe - stands out perfectly in the first movement, with its brilliantly lively tempo. The contrast of the second movement, andante, is excellent, and the trumpet shines again as the third movement opens, in this delightful performance.

Richter’s Orchestral Suites are much denser than the Brandenburgs, and the tempi more "standard". He reads these more as symphonies than suites, but, then again, he puts his own imprimatur on the music. They sound a bit too German, and not French enough for my taste, but one cannot ignore that these performances are full of deep spirit and thought.

All in all, this is a first class set, and one which deserves its place in the history of Bach recordings. It is great to see that Archiv has re-released these recordings in their Originals series. While this is not the "best" recording of these works (is it even possible to consider that any recording of them could be perfect?), it is beautiful and moving. At this mid-price, this is certainly worth owning for fans of Bach and those who appreciate Richter’s unique style.

Kirk McElhearn

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