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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

AVAILABILITY

Silverline Classics

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Brandenburg Concerti (1721)
Concerto #1 in F, BWV 1046 (David Nuttall, Judith Walsh, Linda Mitchell, oboes; Hector McDonal, Phillip Hall, horns; Gordon Skinner, bassoon.)
Concerto #2 in F, BWV 1047 (Daniel Mendelow, trumpet; Geofrey Collins, flute; David Nuttal, oboe)
Concerto #3 in G, BWV 1048
Concerto #4 in G, BWV 1049 (Howard and Helen Oberg, recorders)
Concerto #5 in D, BWV 1050 (Sue Morris, flute; John Palmer, harpsichord)
Concerto #6 in Bb, BWV 1051 (Jane Hazelwood, Irena Morozov; violas; David Pereira, cello; Max McBride, bass)
Academy of St. James, Carl Pini, leader and solo violin.
Recorded in the Opera House Concert Hall, Sydney, Australia. Date not given.
Notes in English; track list, musical and engineering staff credits.
On screen extras: composer biography, technical documentary.
Also playable on DVD players

SILVERLINE CLASSICS DVD-AUDIO 288232-9 [97.57]


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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Comparison Recordings:

Karl Haas, London Baroque Ensemble. Westminster LP XWN 2211
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Concentus Musicus Wien. Decca Laserdisc 071 204-1
Harry Newstone, Hamburger Kammerorkester. Saga LP XID 5031/2
Thurston Dart, Philomusica of London. L’Oiseau-Lyre LP SOL 60005/6
Mandeal, Enescu PO (3 and 5 only) DVD Audio AIX 1338 AX
Carl Pini, Academy of St. James, Omega CD SKU 38753

The Brandenburg Concerti have been recorded many, many times, and been recorded well most of those times. This is one of the better recordings, distinguished by tasteful and not excessive improvised ornaments and embellishments (give me three beers and I can go on all night about the distinction between embellishments and ornaments). I specifically included the Westminster recording because it was an excellent recording, performance and sound, the first one to make a serious attempt at original instruments, and featured Anthony Pini playing cello, perhaps a relative of Carl. And the Saga stereo recording is on many lists as the single best version ever recorded — why isn’t it on CD?

Even if you don’t want to watch, the Harnoncourt video is an excellent performance of the standard versions, better than his CD set of "alternative versions." And if you do want to watch, well, you have that choice.

These concerti are chamber music; fortunately we are long past the time when the full string sections of famous orchestras would try to play them. Modern recordings where an orchestra is given credit, the fine print generally reads "members of" only. DVD-Audio surround sound would be a great advantage in particularly the Third and Sixth Concerti because they feature complex textures with several instruments playing congruent counterpoint lines in the same register. For a live chamber music setting, this is no problem because spatial separation makes the lines distinct.

If you want to sit at the actual centre of the ensemble, you will want to obtain the AIX version which quite literally puts you there; you can hear each individual part as clearly as if you were following the score, and it’s an excellent performance to boot. But—so far—they’ve only done #’s 3 and 5 (are you listening Marc Waldrep?)

But in an audience-versus-proscenium perspective, such as we have here, the sound merges into a texture and the lines are not separately audible. The attempt at fake quadraphony gives the sound a spurious brilliance and an odd echo-y hollowness which makes the individual lines even less audible. If you can find the original two CD set on Omega, it will probably have more realistic, more transparent sound, although the frequency response might be less—the harpsichord might not be so easily heard throughout, as it is here.

The two most difficult solo parts are the trumpet in #2 and the harpsichord in #5, and rest assured that these soloists are the equal of anyone you’ve ever heard. The harpsichordist does not stumble at the place in the cadenza where most of them do because he slows down a little that point and it sounds very natural.

The cadenza problem from #3 has here been solved with a very slightly extended harpsichord arpeggio, in line with the most recent scholarship. Thurston Dart’s solution of interpolating the slow movement from BWV 1021 did not catch on with other groups. The Hamburger solution of playing the Sarabande from the English Suite #5, or an extended harpsichord improvisation such as that played by Gustav Leonhardt, are also not heard any more, perhaps regrettably.

Another drawback to this recording is the engineer’s allowing no more than a fraction of a second between concerti; you may want to hit pause right at the final chord to avoid a sense of collision. It is nice to have the entire set on one side, something DVD-Audio has always been able to do, but hasn’t done until now. No jumping up to put on the second disk. Buy it for the performance, but don’t expect to be bowled over by the sound quality, especially in comparison to the astonishing beauty of the AIX DVD-Audio recording.

Paul Shoemaker

 



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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