On a first, casual listening, these brisk, generally aggressive
readings sound like "period practice" gone haywire.
In fact, they represent a hybrid of historical and modern performance
styles. The performers frequently make unconventional choices,
but the aim is always to clarify the music's structures and enhance
its expressive power.
Thus, the bracing tempi that dominate BWV 1046 don't represent
speed for speed's sake, but accommodate various musical details:
the first movement's horn triplets, which can plod, make luminous
sense here, and audible hemiolas set up the important cadences
in both outer movements. The Adagio
moves along forthrightly,
with the oboe playing its little flourish near the close freely;
the final chord, with its unexpected, unmarked swell and dramatic
cutoff, skirts coarseness, but effectively propels the music
into the following Allegro
. In that movement's slow episode,
the violin solo also has a flexible flair. The Menuetto
articulations vary on its returns, while its various alternating
sections are rather interesting. The oboes fill in the repeats
of the two Trio
s with elaborate, presumably written-out "embellishments";
those in the second Trio
seemed, at first, a bit much
-- inadvertently throwing focus to the pair of horns -- but they
grew on me. The strings attack the Polacca
's one forte
brusquely, especially the first time around -- old-fashioned
elegance seems not to have been a high priority here -- but the
move out of it is smooth enough.
After this, BWV 1047's merely brisk tempi seem almost comfortable.
The central Adagio
again flows smoothly, though I wasn't
convinced by the consistent dotting of one of the pairs of even
eighth-notes -- the rhythms among the three solo parts no longer
line up. The outer movements avoid the sewing-machine effect,
thanks to purposeful crescendos and diminuendos -- well-chosen,
judiciously applied, but definitely not part of the "period" expressive
menu. There's a joy in the sheer motor activity of the finale
as it winds into its finish.
BWV 1048, for strings alone, is vigorously bowed -- alternating
with odd bits of smoother articulation -- with keen rhythmic
address; here and there, the basses land a cadence with an unceremonious
thud. The Phrygian cadence separating the concerto's two "official" movements
is unadorned, save for some discreet harpsichord scales. The
finale contrives to maintain a feathery poise, even after the
double-basses enter, and despite the basically driving approach.
BWV 1049 may just be the best performance on the disc. In the
first movement, there's no loss of energy or involvement, yet
a distinct lean into the theme's "down-bars" produces
a nice lilting grace that eludes the conventional, all-bars-created-equal
rendition. The Andante
, like the other slow movements,
is direct rather than searching in manner, while the finale moves
along smartly and musically.
Significantly, I'd not thought much about the quality of the
various soloists. They're all rather good -- although the trumpeter
in BWV 1047 reduces a few of the trills to simple mordents --
without anyone's tone or phrasing standing out as exceptional.
The unvalved horns in BWV 1046 have that familiar raw edge. The ripieno
discipline is fine, if you don't mind the occasional bumptious
The Super Audio CD plays vividly in plain frontal stereo; given
the forward recorded perspective, in fact, a slight volume cut
might prove beneficial, depending on your equipment. A companion
Arts disc (47716-8), to be reviewed shortly, completes the set
s, filling it out with the Concerto for
Flute, Violin, and Harpsichord.
Stephen Francis Vasta
see also review by Paul