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Bach: Violin Concerti / Elmar Bach: Violin Concerti, Arco Ensemble

Bach,J.s. / Oliveira / Gruesser / Arco Ensemble
Release Date: 09/28/2010 
Label:  Artek   Catalog #: 54-2   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elmar OliveiraEva Gruesser
Conductor:  Elmar Oliveira
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Arco Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BACH Violin Concertos: in a, BWV 1041; in E, BWV 1042; in g, BWV 1056; in d for Two Violins, BWV 1043 1 Elmar Oliveira (vn, cond); 1 Eva Gruesser (vn); Arco Ens ARTEK 0054 (63:24)


After reviewing Elmar Read more Oliveira’s brilliant performance of Schumann’s Violin Concerto in conjunction with our interview, I have to admit that reviewing this CD of Bach’s violin concertos proved rather difficult for me. The reason is not due to any shortcomings found in Oliveira’s playing or the excellent support he receives from the Arco Ensemble. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the fault, dear reader, lies not in the music-making but in what we’ve come to expect of it. Reflexively, I found myself wanting to reject Oliveira’s approach, not for what it is but for what it isn’t.


In recent times, we’ve become so habituated to hearing this music performed on period instruments, that even when it’s performed on modern instruments, we demand that the players adopt the manners and style of performance informed by historical practice. Examples may be heard in two modern-instrument recordings of these Bach concertos by Hilary Hahn with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Julia Fischer with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Both embrace almost identical approaches: rapid tempos, minimal vibrato, short bow strokes, pointed phrasing, terraced dynamics, and surgically precise articulation. Yet, impressive as their performances are as pure execution, Hahn and Fischer’s versions both strike me as virtually devoid of emotional expression and warmth.


Elmar Oliveira’s readings of these concertos are not what I would call big-band Bach— from a group photo, the Arco Ensemble appears to be composed of 18 string players—but they are what I would call older-school Bach. Tempos are brisk enough, but more moderate than the lightning speeds adopted by so many modern-day ensembles; and the result is that one can actually hear and appreciate the intricate contrapuntal interplay between voices in the orchestra, and the intra -play between ripieno and soloist.


For Oliveira’s part, vibrato, long bow strokes, graduated dynamics, and songful phrasing are part and parcel of the art of making beautiful music and making the music sound beautiful. Time and again, as I listened to these performances, the violinist who came to mind was Arthur Grumiaux, whose patrician style Oliveira’s elegant, refined, aristocratic playing and warm tone very much reminds me of.


The more I listened to Oliveira’s Bach, the more I realized what I’ve been missing in so many recent versions both on period and modern instruments. There’s real feeling in these performances. Just listen to the slow movement of the D-Minor Concerto for Two Violins, in which Eva Gruesser is Oliveira’s perfectly matched partner. Of all the movements in these concertos, this one, with its intertwining solo voices overlapping each other with poignant dissonances, may just be the most touching; only the slow movement of the Violin and Oboe Concerto comes close. Interestingly, that concerto, which is a frequent discmate to the three standard violin concertos, is not included here. Instead, Oliveira has chosen to include the G-Minor Concerto, BWV 1056, which is generally more familiar in its F-Minor version for harpsichord.


The sheer beauty and affability of these performances will invite me back to them often, more often I daresay than will a number of impersonal and impassive accounts of recent vintage on both period and modern instruments. Oliveira proves once again, if proof be needed, that Bach belongs to no one school of playing, and that pure, heartfelt music-making transcends all ages. This is very strongly recommended.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Violin no 1 in A minor, BWV 1041 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elmar Oliveira (Violin)
Conductor:  Elmar Oliveira
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Arco Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 10/17/2009 
Venue:  Live  Eugene and Shelly Enlow Recital Hall, Ke 
Length: 16 Minutes 29 Secs. 
2.
Concerto for Violin no 2 in E major, BWV 1042 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elmar Oliveira (Violin)
Conductor:  Elmar Oliveira
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Arco Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 10/17/2009 
Venue:  Live  Eugene and Shelly Enlow Recital Hall, Ke 
Length: 19 Minutes 13 Secs. 
3.
Concerto for Oboe in G minor, BWV 1056 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elmar Oliveira (Violin)
Conductor:  Elmar Oliveira
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Arco Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Date of Recording: 10/17/2009 
Venue:  Live  Eugene and Shelly Enlow Recital Hall, Ke 
Length: 10 Minutes 34 Secs. 
4.
Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Eva Gruesser (Violin), Elmar Oliveira (Violin)
Conductor:  Elmar Oliveira
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Arco Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 10/17/2009 
Venue:  Live  Eugene and Shelly Enlow Recital Hall, Ke 
Length: 17 Minutes 2 Secs. 

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