Bach: Brandenburg Concertos (CD review)
The booklet note says that the Swiss Baroque Soloists aim to "rediscover a new angle on baroque and classical repertoire, mingling energy and boldness in the exploration of rare repertoire and performing on original instruments." Well, "energy and boldness" don't always have to mean fast, and I wouldn't say that Bach's six Brandenburg Concertos exactly qualify as "rare," unless the word is being used in the sense of "great" or "unusually excellent." In any case, the Swiss Baroque Soloists do play with enthusiasm, and the two-disc set does come at a bargain Naxos price. Nothing wrong with that.
I just wish there was as much subtlety as there is vivaciousness in the playing. The opening to Concerto No. 3, for example, is so speedy one could call it breakneck, and for me, at least, it rather takes the joy out of the music when it moves by so rapidly. Besides, no matter how much the performers insist that their interpretations are authentic, I can't believe that bands in Bach's own day would have played with such haste. In any case, the group does slow down a bit by the time they get to the final pieces, so all is not entirely lost. And there is some fine, relaxed playing along the way in the slow movements, too, coming as blessed relief from their surroundings. Maybe that was the intent.
Accompanying the six concertos are the Trio Sonata from Bach's Musical Offering, also somewhat lacking in refinement, and a transcription of the Concerto in G minor, this one for flute and strings.
One might accuse the Naxos sound of being more than a tad forward, but it nicely complements the animation of the readings. My primary concern is that it doesn't display much depth or air, concentrating on a bright clarity and a wide dynamic range. The whole makes for an interesting but not an overwhelmingly satisfying listening experience.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.