Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Ouverture (Suite) No.3 in D, BWV1068 [21:17]
Johann Bernhard BACH (1676-1749)
Ouverture in e minor [21:27]
Johann Sebastian BACH
Ouverture No.1 in C, BWV1066 [26:01]
Ouverture No.4 in D, BWV1069 [24:47]
Johann Ludwig BACH (1677-1731)
Ouverture in G [12:35]
Johann Sebastian BACH
Ouverture No.2 in b minor BWV1067 [23:46]
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini (harpsichord)
rec. 1-9 December 2018, Pontificio Istituto di Musica Sacra, Sala
Accademica, Rome. DDD.
[2 CDs: 129:52]
Don’t let the
weird cover shot, in which Rinaldo Alessandrini seems to be
struggling to emerge from orange-coloured cellophane, his hands dipped in
blue dye, put you off. That’s the only
gimmick in a very worthwhile 2-CD set on which Concerto Italiano build on
their earlier recording of the Brandenburg Concertos (2005) to set the four
orchestral Suites or Ouvertures in the context of two similar works
by JSB’s contemporary relatives.
The chosen tempi for JSB’s Suites are generally swift but not excessive. In
the Air ‘on the G string’ in No.3, he even sounds slightly old-fashioned,
though he doesn’t linger, taking almost a minute less than another
well-liked recording, from the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (Harmonia Mundi
HMC901123.34). Brian Reinhart thought that recording a keeper,
alongside Café Zimmerman on Alpha –
DL News 2013/18,
but it’s more than a little extravagant in that it runs to two discs,
with no coupling. Even as downloaded from
for $21.02 (16-bit) or $25.22 (24-bit), it’s hardly sterling value.
The 6-CD Café Zimmermann set on which the Brandenburgs and Suites are
interspersed with Bach’s other concertos is now download only (ALPHA811 –
– around £33 for lossless). There would be a strong case for releasing them
separately on their budget-price Essential Baroque label, as the
Brandenburgs have been (ALPHA300 –
DL News 2015/9,
around £8.75, or download for around £5 in lossless sound). Café
Zimmermann on their small-scale recording are a shade faster than
Alessandrini and his team and, though I very much enjoy their whole set, I
incline towards the new Naïve recording in the main.
‘Thoughtful’ and ‘measured’ are not words that I would normally expect to
use of Alessandrini – some of his Vivaldi recordings verge on the
over-urgent – but I did find myself choosing them here quite frequently –
in the opening Ouvertures, for example. In that of Suite No.1, his
time of 10:31 is a minute longer than Café Zimmermann, but the music never
drags, because there is an inherent sense of rhythm in the performances.
The ouvertures apart, of course, all the movements are given the
names of dances, and that’s exactly how they sound here, but Bach can never
resist taking us by the hand and leading us a merry dance, even in the
sacred cantatas, so you could move in time to this ouverture as
easily as to what follows. And the dance music fairly skips along, though
the tempi are well suited to each individual movement and never excessive.
The music by Bach’s two cousins was well worth reviving. Of course, it’s no
match for that of JSB, but it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, either,
even in juxtaposition with his better-known works. For that, too, these
performances deserve credit. Bach himself is known to have valued and
performed their music, and Alessandrini and his team make the reason plain
in these well-recorded accounts.
By one of those coincidences which mirror the banana-bunch effect of London
buses, another recording of JB Bach’s Suites has recently appeared,
containing all four (Audite 97.770). I’ve had time only to dip into
recording, from the Thüringer Bach Collegium but, considering that the
Naïve recording comes at an attractive price, it’s well worth having both,
especially as the Audite can be downloaded from Qobuz, in lossless sound
with booklet, for £6.49. The Thüringer recording of the music of Prince
Johann Ernst (Audite 97.769) is also recommended –
The 2-CD Naïve set is on sale as I write for £11.95, reduced from £13.50.
Even at the normal price, that makes this attractive recording a bargain.
It could well become my version of choice for Johann Sebastian's Suites, with the
music of his cousins an attractive bonus.