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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto in E flat major (reconstruction based on BWV 169, 49, 1053) [16:18]
Concerto in D minor (reconstruction based on BWV 1059) [12:02]
Concert in C minor (reconstruction based on BWV 1060) [14:05]
Georg Philip TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Concerto in G major [13:20]
Concerto in G major [6:44]
Lars Anders Tomter (viola)
Martin Kuuskmann (bassoon)
1B1 – Jan Bjøranger (leader)
rec. 18-22 January 2012, Tanager Church, Sola, Norway

This is a very pleasant selection of 18th century concertos, those by Bach familiar in a number of guises including with oboe, the Telemann works less so but appearing in forms closer to their original manuscripts. All of the reconstructions of Bach’s concertos have been made by soloists Lars Anders Tomter and Martin Kuuskmann and they all sound very convincing indeed. The viola is inevitably a darker sounding solo instrument than the more familiar and sparkling harpsichord in the Concerto BWV 1053 for instance, but lovely expressive points are made all over the place, and I particularly like the lyricism of the slow central movement. Tomter makes the point in his booklet foreword that Bach’s music is open to many interpretations, and I would certainly agree with this on the evidence here.
The Concerto BWV 1059 comes up well with bassoon soloist Martin Kuuskmann demonstrating both virtuoso skill and expressive depths in every movement. The recorded balance between soloists and the fairly light accompanying forces of the 1B1 ensemble is ideal, with the conversational interaction between the two caught nicely. The recording location sounds fairly intimate but the acoustic isn’t too dry, the musicians by no means too close for comfort, the harpsichord continuo nicely low in the mix but providing plenty of thrumming colour and contrast through a variety of stops.
Perhaps comfort is one of the few criticisms which can be levelled at this recording since, despite the novelty of alternative solo instruments and the undeniable technical skills on show, there isn’t much by way of revolutionary stimulation to be had here. The famous Concerto BWV 1060 sounds delicious in this performance, the bassoon having something of an advantage over the viola as a solo voice, but the character of the music maintained and Bach’s lively Allegro outer movements framing a lovely Adagio in which the unequal duo of viola and bassoon certainly meet in terms of style and expressiveness.
Hearing such pieces in a new setting is always an education, and putting Bach up against Telemann serves to remind us of the difference in quality there is between the two. Telemann is more of an entertainer in the two concerti recorded here, urbanely adapting Baroque form to combine with the directness of language in the style galant in his Viola Concerto in G major, and using popular dance forms in double concerto which follows, adapted from a concerto ‘pour 2 violettes’ into one for bassoon and viola. This is gorgeous music and again works superbly well in this context, but don’t expect the earth to move beneath your feet.
With informative booklet notes and attractively designed packaging this is a release which comes with a warm recommendation. The production as a whole doesn’t hit you between the eyes with high-octane excitement, but these are not the ambitions of this release. Lars Anders Tomter argues the case for keeping a ‘living tradition’ for this kind of music, as against any fixed idea of ‘authenticity’. The sounds here will find approval from most fans of an authentic sound in Baroque music, but the feeling of joy and affinity with pieces which can still appear fresh and invigorating is more importantly communicated ‘with love... underlying skill and knowledge’, bringing the long vanished generations of their original creators back to life in your living room.
Dominy Clements