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…
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.
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.
“For those who prefer modern concert pitch and instruments fitted with all today's mod cons, this recording offers graceful, unhurried performances which convey an atmosphere of chamber music and are refreshingly light footed.” BBC Music Magazine, Proms 2007