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.
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.
There's no shortage of mainstream orchestral versions of J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, but period ensembles usually play them as works for chamber orchestra, with their string sections pared down. In Richard Egarr's historically informed performances with the Academy of Ancient Music, the strings are limited to single instruments per part, much as Bach likely expected and probably got, if these concertos were actually played in his day…
Boston Baroque and Martin Pearlman recorded a splendid set of the Brandenburg Concertos on period instruments in 1993 and 1994. Made entirely in the US, these snappy, crisply articulated, and fluent performances rely heavily on the talents of violinist Daniel Stepner (who doubles as one of the two solo violists in Concerto No. 6). Among the highlights are the joyous finale to Concerto No. 4 and the superb cembalo cadenza in No. 5, played by Pearlman. Along with outstanding sound, there's a winning sense of freshness and discovery in these performances.
Very few conductors have recorded as much Bach as Karl Richter and none can lay a stronger claim to a legacy based on championing the master. Richter's reverence for Bach is evinced by the simplicity, splendor, and grandeur with which he consistently imbued his performances exemplified here by these landmark recordings of the Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites. In Archiv's original-image bit-processing remastered transfers as well, the sound is better than ever. This is cornerstone Bach that should not be missed.