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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger


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The Best Of Baroque Music
J.S. BACH (1685-1750) Orchestral Suite No.3, Air; Suite No.2, Badinerie; Suite No.4, Bourrée 1 and 2; from Naxos 8.554609. Brandenburg Concerto No.2 Movement 3; from Naxos 8.554607; Harpsichord Concerto in F minor, Largo; from Naxos 8.554604
CORELLI (1653-1713) Christmas Concerto, Pastorale;
MARCELLO (1684-1750) Oboe Concerto in D minor, Adagio;
ALBINONI (1671-1751) Oboe Concerto in D minor Op.9 no.2 (from Naxos 8.551077);
TELEMANN Overture in D major "Darmstadt" from Naxos 8.554244)
TELEMANN Recorder Suite in A minor - Réjouissance and Passepied I/II;
HANDEL (1685-1759) Arrival of the Queen of Sheba; Largo from ‘Serse’;
PACHELBEL (1653-1706) Canon and Gigue;
VIVALDI (1678-1741) Flautino Concerto in C major – Largo;
New Recordings made at Deutschland Radio, Cologne, April 2002
Cologne Chamber Orchestra/Helmut Müller-Bruhl
NAXOS 8.557124 [68.18]


Yes, this is another Naxos compilation CD. Yes, it includes pieces already available, but it also includes some good and thoughtful performances of pieces which have been especially recorded for it. This is an unusual state of affairs but one which is most advisable when a disc needs to be filled with quality performances and consistently good quality music. The back of the CD proclaims that the disc brings together "the greatest music from the baroque era" and "a veritable feast of Baroque music". And yet, incidentally, there is no ‘Four Seasons’.

As you can see the selection is fairly predictable with the possible exception of the attractive Recorder Concerto movements by Telemann and one from a Vivaldi Flute Concerto. In fact the three well chosen pieces by Telemann made me realize again what an original he was and how much we tend to underestimate him overshadowed by the great J.S.B.

It was the Cologne Chamber Orchestra that so impressed me earlier this year with a recording of Haydn symphonies conducted by Müller-Bruhl (Naxos 8.557124). I described them then as ‘historically aware’ performances, using modern instruments but with stylistic discipline. The harpsichord, for example, is audible but not obtrusive. There is either no or very little use of vibrato. The phrasing uses a variety of string bowing techniques which is in keeping with contemporary practice.

For listeners coming to this repertoire for the first time the booklet notes by Keith Anderson are clear with the composer’s contribution to each genre put into geographical and musical context. Brief biographies are given. Incidentally the notes are not presented in the order in which the music is presented on the CD.

If you are a long-standing collector then this CD is probably not for you unless you are looking for car background listening. Nothing here will jolt you too much and there is enough strong, fast and loud music to keep you awake as you plod up the M4 on a wet Friday in September.

None of the performances are what we might call ‘naff’. There are no weak moments … indeed there are many to savour. Special mention should be made of the brass playing which is crisp and neat in the Bach orchestral suites. There is a particularly scintillating performance of the final Allegro in Bach’s Brandenburg No.4. The ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’, a good choice to open the CD, is ideally paced and balanced. Some listeners may object to the rather fast tempo adopted for the de-sentimentalized Adagio from the famous Albinoni/Giazotto amalgamation with its rather curious staccato opening chords. However, on the whole, this is an attractive disc which will afford new listeners to classical music much pleasure and interest.

Gary Higginson

See also review by Don Satz

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