Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major, BWV 1046 [19:17]
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F major, BWV 1047 [11:52]
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048 [11:29]
Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G major, BWV 1049 [15:24]
Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major, BWV 1050 [21:17]
Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B flat major, BWV 1051 [15:34]
Harpsichord Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052 [24:17]
Harpsichord Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056 [10:10]
Violin Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052 (Adaptation by Elizabeth Wallfisch of reconstructed score) [22:37]
Elizabeth Wallfisch, baroque violin (Violin Concerto),
Apollo’s Fire (The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra)/Jeannette Sorrell,
rec. St. Paul’s Church, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA: October 1999 (Brandenburg Concertos 1-5); February 2000 (Brandenburg Concerto 6); October 2002 (Harpsichord Concerto, BWV 1052); May 2004 (BWV 1056) and February 2005 (Violin Concerto, BWV 1052)
AVIE AV2207 [79:21 + 72:41]

This Avie disc is a reissue of the 6 Brandenburg Concertos released on Etcetera in 2000. For this issue the Brandenburgs have been coupled with two Harpsichord Concertos. In additional one of the Harpsichord Concertos has been reconstructed as a Violin Concerto.
Apollo’s Fire (aka The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra) takes its name from Apollo the Classical God of sun and music. Founded by conductor and harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell in 1982 the ensemble is dedicated to the performance of 17th and 18thcentury music using period instruments.
There are a number of recommendable sets of the 6 Brandenburg Concertos in the catalogue.For many years the one I have favoured is the impeccable period instrument version by The English Concert directed by Trevor Pinnock. Originally released in 1982 my set is the 1989 reissue on Archiv Produktion 423 4922 3 (c/w 4 Orchestral Suites).
Since its release in 2005 the version of the Brandenburgs that I play most often is the excitingly vivacious and beautifully performed Concerto Italiano on period instruments. Directed by Rinaldo Alessandrini this exhilarating set was recorded in 2005 at Palazzo Farnese, Rome on Naïve OP 30412 (c/w Sinfonia from Cantata, BWV 174).
Under the direction of Jeannette Sorrell the playing of Apollo’s Fire is commendable; rather hindered by the over-close and often cloudy sound picture. Some of the textures and rhythms felt a touch heavy and cumbersome at times. There are some fine individual contributions from the Cleveland soloists notably the trumpet, oboe, flute and violin. When comparing Apollo’s Fire to Alessandrini the Italians come over as being more comfortable with their instruments, crisp and fluid, brisk and exuberant with a superior rhythmic pulse. Jeannette Sorrell does a fine job as soloist in the Harpsichord Concertos; she certainly is an impressive player. In the Violin Concerto Elizabeth Wallfisch plays with assurance and a high degree of technical proficiency making a splendid case for her adaptation of the reconstructed score. Curiously it felt that the final track was played more Presto than Allegro.
The very close and over-warm sound on this Avie release provides a rather cloudy perspective by comparison to Pinnock and Alessandrini. Unhelpfully the track-listing in the Avie booklet runs consecutively over the two discs. However, the track-list on the rear of the case is sensibly presented. This is a creditable release from Apollo’s Fire but the competition is extremely fierce in the Brandenburgs.
Michael Cookson
A creditable release from Apollo’s Fire.