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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 – 1750)
Suite No. 4 in D Major BWV 1069, (1725)
Suite No. 1 in C Major BWV 1066, (1725)
Suite No. 3 in D Major BWV 1068, (1725)
Suite No. 2 in B Minor BWV 1067, (1725)
Christopher Krueger (flute) in BWV1067
Boston Baroque/Martin Pearlman
(using period instruments)
recorded in Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Massachusetts, 24-26 Sept 2003 DDD.
TELARC CD-80619 [73’32"]


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This issue is at full price, and for me, worth every penny. It is without exception the best integral recording of Bach’s four suites on a single disc, and better than most of the double disc issues as well. It is the first period performance that I can listen to without thinking "Oh yes, this is a period performance."

Boston Baroque is a new ensemble to me, although the sleeve notes advertise a further 13 issues, none of which I have heard. Listening to this disc, it brought back very pleasant memories of walking through shopping malls in central Boston, and hearing musicians busking in the precincts of the shopping areas. In those days (mid-1970s) there were not many period instruments around, but the qualities of the playing on this disc were very much in evidence – absolute security of pitch and rhythm and a joy in the playing which was very satisfying.

Initially, I was surprised that Telarc had placed these suites in non-numerical order until I read the notes. Evidently recent scholarship has uncovered the fact that the order of the suites - 4, 1, 3 and 2 is the sequence in which they were written. The same scholarship has uncovered the fact that the fourth suite is now almost definitely by Bach, where previously this was thought not to be the case.

The Fourth Suite utilises the largest forces of the four with additional trumpets (3), timpani, and oboe. When they are at full blast they make a joyous sound, which the Telarc engineers have captured wonderfully. The last movement is called Réjouissance and in this version this really sounds as though it is a rejoicing; many others run at it like a bull at a gate which is often exciting but a little out of character. Under Pearlman the Boston Baroque are rejoicing like no other band.

The Second Suite is similarly lively, and beautifully played with the overture and ten dances played perfectly with security of both pitch and rhythm, to say nothing of togetherness. The overall spirit of the playing is highly infectious and gave me much pleasure. It is difficult to find any of the hallmarks of older period performances – poor pitch and rhythm to say nothing about intonation.

When we reach the Third Suite this, the most popular of the four, is played with such élan that it is hard to believe that we are listening to a recording such is the energy and commitment of the playing.

The Second Suite, last on the disc, is the one for solo flute, strings and harpsichord, and can be considered as a flute concerto. The soloist, Christopher Krueger is the flautist with Boston Baroque, and is an ideal soloist, as he obviously is closely associated with the orchestra and does not stick out of the ensemble as some more famous soloists do.

I cannot recommend this disc too highly. It is a superb issue both in terms of performance and recording quality.

John Phillips

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