Claudio Abbado isn't a name one associates with early music, in light of his impressive career conducting the masterworks of the Romantic and modern eras. Indeed, he didn't conduct any music by J.S. Bach with the Berlin Philharmonic until as late as 1994. Yet when he's leading the talented Orchestra Mozart of Bologna in Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, his ease with the music and his players is obvious, and the performances have almost as much Baroque style as many versions by period ensembles of greater longevity. Abbado led this ensemble in all six Brandenburgs in 2007 at the Teatro Municipale Romolo Valli in Reggio Emilio, and the live performances were recorded by Deutsche Grammophon with close attention to details, as befits chamber music.
In November 2004 a new name caused listeners to prick up their ears on the international orchestral scene: under Claudio Abbado’s artistic guidance the Orchestra Mozart came into being. It combines both young instrumentalists on the threshold of a first-rate career as well as eminent chamber musicians such as Danusha Waskiewicz, Alois Posch, Jacques Zoon, Michaela Petri, Ottavio Dantone, Mario Brunello, Alessio Allegrini, Jonathan Williams and Reinhold Friedrich. As with his famous Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Abbado hand-picked an ensemble to his liking, this time one of early- and Baroque-music specialists, all masters in their field.
This is a perfectly reasonable recording of Bach's works for violin and orchestra and anyone who has not heard the works before will no doubt find them more than adequate. Violinist and leader Jonathan Rees is a fine player with a sweet tone and a warm style and he takes the strings of the Scottish Ensemble through thoroughly professional performances of the works. When joined by spry violinist Jane Murdoch in the Concerto for two violins and plangent oboist Nicholas Daniel in the Concerto for violin and oboe, Rees proves himself a graceful and considerate partner. Virgin's early-'90s sound is a bit thin on top but still clean and clear.(James Leonard)
Dedicated to the Margrave of Brandenburg, J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos are timeless works of art - their variety of styles and instrumental combinations reveal inspiration of the highest order. Karl Richter's Brandenburg Concertos are perfectly paced, clear textured and undeniably stylish. There's a level of sophistication in this performance which few recordings are able to equal. The Munchener Bach-Orchester has a sound that is in the German tradition and thoroughly idiomatic.
Hermann Scherchen's performances of these Brandenburg Concerts avoids the normally expected exaltation of opening and closing movements conferred by most performances. Instead, he opts for a beautifully serene approach to the score, making it more reflective, thoughtful and expansive, hightlighting the lyrical flow that emanates from it.
Listening to this irresistibly joyful and magnificently musical set of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites, one is immediately struck by two thoughts. First, Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan have been wasting their time concentrating on Bach's dour cantatas, and second, Bach himself was wasting his time writing his melancholy church music when he could have been composing infinitely more cheerful secular music. While Suzuki and his crew have turned in superlatively performed, if spectacularly severe recording of the cantatas, they sound just as virtuosic and vastly more comfortable here.
For Roy Goodman's various roles in the project assume Toad-like proportions. Founder of the Brandenburg Consort, Goodman is not at all content merely to direct these performances but also plays solo violin, violino piccolo and viola as well as penning lively accompanying notes. Well, readers may rest assured that I'm no Badger and am inclined to applaud Goodman's diversity of talent rather than otherwise.
The Gemini Series features an impressive roster of singers, conductors, soloists, and ensembles of international renown, all from the incomparable EMI Classics stable. EMI's rich legacy of recording expertise comes to the fore in performances from the 1960s to the 1990s. Gemini titles are predominantly collections of single composers and fantastic value with well over an hour of music on each CD, making them the ideal place to start or develop a collection of classical music. Each 2-CD set contains over two hours of music for a fantastically low price. Attractively designed and packaged in space-saving brilliant boxes, each set includes three-language booklets with detailed notes on the music.
When Bach was in the service of Prince Leopold in Coethen, he had his own orchestra and was contracted to compose a great deal of instrumental music. This gave him an opportunity to try new techniques and to develop his own instrumental style. The six Brandenburg Concertos belongs to these masterpieces for a small ensemble. This joyously infectious performance of these famous landmarks in the history of music by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra demonstrates both the musical satisfaction and the high professional standard that can be reached with period instruments.