Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1-6, BWV1046-1051 (1708-21)
Philomusica of London/Thurston Dart (harpsichord and conductor)
rec. 1958-59, London
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR 341-42 [46:19 + 55:00]
Thurston Dart’s late 1950s recording of the Brandenburg Concertos remains an exciting, life enhancing experience. Subsequent conductors built on his editions - Neville Marriner in particular - and made their own recordings. Marriner’s Philips recordings with the ASMIF might indeed reasonably be said to be homage to, and extrapolation of, Dart’s work in Bach performance on disc. Dart’s influence has been gratifyingly extensive, and his regrettably early death in 1971 has not dimmed admiration for his thoroughness, scholarly application, editorial acumen, and practical musicianship.
The Philomusica of London contained a raft of outstanding instrumentalists, among them violinists Carl Pini and Granville Jones, violist Cecil Aronowitz, oboists Peter Graeme (who died very recently) and young Neil Black, flautist Richard Adeney, viola da gambist Desmond Dupré, and trumpeter Dennis Clift.
Dart favours trumpets (Clift and Sydney Ellison) in No.1, which pushes things an octave higher. But the strikingly direct and bright sound is worth it, not least when so enterprisingly, virtuosically and excitingly performed as here. Carl Pini, who was many years later to make his own recording of the Concertos - no doubt recalling Dart as he did so - is the excellent fiddler. What emerges throughout is a lithe and compelling corporate identity, as does purpose and precision in the finale of this concerto. We can admire the woody recorder of Christopher Taylor in Nos. 2 and 4, the chamber intimacy in the former concerto’s central movement, and the striking élan of its Allegro assai finale.
Dart encourages some teaky but still tangy cello tone in No.3, and gives Granville Jones an opportunity for solo glory in the Andante, an interpolation from BWV1021 - but note the nicely balanced Dart harpsichord too. Jones’ interplay with the recorders of Christopher Taylor and Richard Taylor in No.4 is laudably engineered. Dart’s harpsichord is at its busiest in the Affetuso of No.5-possibly a bit too much so-but his solo cadenza towards the close of the movement reminds one of his outstanding solo recordings made over the years. Viola warmth floods No.6, with Rosemary Green supporting Aronowitz, and expression in the slow movement is quite intense, and warmly vibrated.
More than a staging post in the history of the Brandenburgs on disc, this is an especially noteworthy and creatively alive document of performance practice at the end of the 1950s.
Jonathan Woolf
An especially noteworthy and creatively alive document of performance practice at the end of the 1950s. 

Masterwork Index: Brandenburg concertos