Naturally, Brilliant Classics could not afford to get the best baroque performers - this is a super budget set - but one thing that the listener discovers in this set is that there are many fine, even excellent "second tier" performers of Bach's music. Many of the instrumental ensembles whose recordings are in this set are excellent. The Consort of London, for example, is a pleasant surprise. They perform the Brandenburg Concertos and the Orchestral Suites…
La Petite Bande has recorded a spectacular rendition of Bach’s four orchestral suites, certainly some of the most spectacular instrumental music of the Baroque repertoire. La Petite Bande director, Sigiswald Kuijken, has written a very informative essay explaining the history of these pieces. Unfortunately, more is unknown than known. Kuijken speculates that the works were conceived for string orchestra and the wind parts were added at a later date. He also notes that sections of the 4th Suite were reused in the opening chorus of the Christmas Cantata, BWV 110. Kuijken also remarks that he has rethought his approach to these works opting for small musical forces as opposed to the rather large ensemble that La Petite Bande employed in its performances and recording of about 30 years ago.
Karl Richter’s recordings of Bach’s orchestral and sacred music influenced an entire generation of musicians and listeners, presenting the conductor’s unique sound and style. When Richter recorded Bach’s works, he freed them from a ponderous tradition that had mired the music in romantic sounds and idiom. Richter lightened Bach’s music, and, with an orchestra of outstanding musicians, helped bring it toward the more modern interpretations that listeners have become familiar with today. This is still a bit far from the historically-informed performances that are pretty much the norm, but there is a unity and natural originality that comes through the music in these recordings.
The legendary Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire specializes in the 19th century and has turned to recording Bach in his eighth decade, apparently for the first time. All you can say is that it was worth the wait. His Bach is typically restrained, not unaware of the long tradition of Bach piano performances, but decidedly unlike anyone else's approach. In general, Freire is pianistic without applying a lot of pedal.