J. S. BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto in F major reconstructed from BWV 49 and BWV 169 [18:58]
Concerto in D minor reconstructed from BWV 35 and BWV 156 [11:40]
Adagio from Easter Oratorio BWV 249 [4:08]
Concerto in A major reconstructed from BWV 1055 [14:37]
Concerto in C minor reconstructed from BWV 1060 [13:26]
Alexei Ogrintchouk (oboe and director)
Alina Ibragimova (violin BWV 1060)
Reinut Tepp (harpsichord)
Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Örebro
rec. August 2009, Örebro Concert Hall, Sweden
BIS-SACD-1769 [64:16]

As a glance at the titles for this release indicates, this is pretty much an album of reconstructions. In his learned and usefully comprehensive booklet notes, Geoffrey Burgess describes how Bach’s concertos for harpsichord can be shown to have had other intended solo instruments, the oboe in particular, in mind. Bach wrote more solos for the oboe into his cantatas than for any other instrument, and so the lack of concertante works for the instrument argues that several may have been lost or have only survived in other guises. This is especially the case when considering that renowned oboe players such as his brother Johann Jacob, and Johann Ludwig Rose and Caspar Gleditsch, would have been available at different periods in the composer’s life.

This is not the first recording of this kind, and those by Hans-Peter Westermann on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi and Burkhard Glaetzner on Berlin Classics are just a couple of other examples which overlap in terms of content. The first half of this programme is a fascinating collection, bringing disparate movements together to create new pieces. The booklet notes don’t go into much detail about these lower BWV numbers, but Bach’s early Weimar cantatas were certainly given enough challenging hautboy solos to give their unnamed performer plenty to get his teeth into. These amount to impressively substantial works which give a refreshing new look to some excellent music. The Adagio from the Easter Oratorio earns its place as a movement in its own right, its existence as a possible original slow movement of BWV 1055 having also been proposed by musicologist and oboist Bruce Haynes, so with this disc you can even do some reshuffling and find out which version you prefer for yourself.

Whatever the sources and arguments for re-creating and restoring what might be imagined to have been Bach’s original intentions, these performances are never anything less than entirely convincing. There are a few familiar movements, but hearing them in this context and played with such stylish expressive prowess as with Alexei Ogrintchouk there is no real sense of repetition or over-use of well known warhorses. The best known individual concertos are the final two on the disc, starting with BWV 1055. Even here there is variety built-in, Alexei Ogrintchouk taking the oboe d’amore, with its lower, richer tones. The lively tempi and crisp playing of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, harpsichord continuo included, is very bright sounding, and these performances are all expertly done and beautifully phrased. The Double Concerto from BWV 1060 also works very well, the lovely refined solos of Alina Ibraginova’s violin winding their way around the Adagio lines of the oboe in a way which can seem quite sensual at times.

As we have come to expect from Bis over the years, the recording of this programme is superb. The oboe is close, but not beyond realistic balance and credibility, and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra is beefy enough to provide more than adequate backing. The SACD quality is fairly understated, developing clarity and sense of line with the increased spatial separation, but with a recording which also serves superbly in straightforward stereo. Alexei Ogrintchouk’s tone is attractively rounded, always expressive and beautifully phrased, and with an effortless and breezy way of taking flight with the music which makes him ‘invisible’ in technical terms, masterful in the way in which he leads the band in interpretations which I have a feeling will be the standard to beat for many years to come.

Dominy Clements

A standard which will be hard to beat.