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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Brandenburg Concertos 1-3
2 Oboe Concertos
Brandenburg Concertos Nos.13 BWV 10461048
Concerto for Oboe d'amore, Strings and Continuo in A major BWV 1055r
Concerto for Oboe, Violin, Strings and Continuo in C minor BWV 1060r
David Reichenberg, oboe
Simon Standage, violin
The English Concert/Trevor Pinnock
Rec: April 1982 (1046-48), March 1984 (1055, 1060), Henry Wood Hall, London
DG ARCHIV 471 720-2 [72.13]


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In the pantheon of Bach recordings over the past few decades, Trevor Pinnock's Brandenburgs stand out as some of the most organically complete interpretations of these works. Recorded in the early 1980s on original instruments, Pinnock managed to give these concertos vibrancy and emotion, balancing excellent musicianship with attractive sound. His small forces give the music a texture that is patently authentic, and he manages to infuse the works with joy and sensitivity throughout.

Pinnock avoids excesses in either direction - his tempi are restrained, yet lively. They are neither excessively fast, such as Reinhard Goebel's recordings (also on Archiv) nor overly slow, such as Pinnock's many predecessors. One fine example of this is the final movement of the first Brandenburg concerto, often played at a plodding pace in undoubtedly an attempt to sound regal. Pinnock's musicians play this just fast enough to make the minuet sound like a dance movement, and to make you want to tap your feet. This is no dense performance à la Richter; the musicians play with light touches and manage to mix grace and incisiveness.

Pinnock knew how to choose excellent soloists; here Simon Standage on violin and David Reichenberg on oboe. Their roles are essential in these works. Reichenberg, naturally, for the oboe concerti, and Standage who is especially brilliant in the second Branderburg concerto. This work's opening movement, which is like a showcase for the many soloists - flute, trumpet, oboe and violin - is a joy to listen to. The soloists in this concerto of soloists work together perfectly.

The two oboe concerti on this disc are reconstructions based on two harpsichord concerti. David Reichenberg's unique sound and phrasing are very attractive, though the tempi of the first concerto could be a little more inspired. But these weak tempi are more than compensated by the attractive sound of the strings and of Reichenberg's oboe. The second concerto is more lively, yet the oboe is drowned out more by the strings. There is a big difference in the sound of the two concerti - in the first the oboe is perhaps too forward; in the second it is a bit too distant.

This is one of the finest recordings available of the first three Brandenburg concerti. With excellent musicianship, sound and tempi, they are jewels demonstrating how Pinnock's ground-breaking work of some twenty years ago still stands among the best. The oboe concerti are less essential, but the fine sound makes them worthwhile as well.

Kirk McElhearn

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