The combination of these two soloists, this conductor and this music is surely self-recommending to any music enthusiast. That is as long as the recording quality is acceptable. Despite the two violin concertos being in mono, it certainly is, being largely without the distressing shrillness which sometimes afflicted Soviet recordings of this era. I have no idea why the Double Concerto, made as late as late as 1968, should be in mono but the quality of the sound and the performance is such as to disarm all objection. I scarcely noticed, so beautiful is the playing of this renowned father and son team.
I am an unashamed traditionalist in my preference for artists such as Grumiaux and Mutter in these concertos and nothing about the playing here makes me question that preference: it is unfailingly sweet of tone, secure of intonation and sure of phrasing. Barshai’s accompaniment is by no means indulgent or etiolated; he simply allows two great violinists to take centre-stage.
The two Brandenburgs, in excellent stereo, are joyful and animated, the harpsichord not too prominent in No. 1 but pleasingly audible, the horns mellow and secure, the oboes pleasantly astringent. The tempo for the Allegros sandwiching the tiny Adagio in No.3 is urgent, almost breathless; there is no stodgy plodding at all and the slight edge on the strings is faintly suggestive of period astringency.
This recording is elegantly presented in a slim, attractively designed cardboard slipcase with brief notes. It serves both as the perfect sampler to introduce a novice to Bach’s music or as a souvenir for any aficionado of the art of three great musicians.
Masterwork Index: Brandenburg concertos
~~ Bach violin concertos