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.
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.
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…
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)
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.
In many ways this is a special recording. It features first-desks from the Chicago Sym. playing two of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, and so far beyond the average Baroque ensemble are they that one yearns for the other four. Just to hear the amazing trumpet solos in Concerto no. 2 by the legendary Adolph Herseth repays the cost of the CD. But we also get James Levine doing double duty at the harpsichord in Concerto no. 5. One deficit from the rise of period performance is that non-specialists have been driven out. The days when an all-around musician like Levine or Leonard Bernstein performed Bach and Handel are more or less over, and their replacements, to be tactful, are not on such an exalted level of talent…. By Santa Fe Listener
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.