This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Robust, honest performances with a vitality and an exuberance which is infectious.
La Stravaganza, under their director/harpsichordist Siegbert Rampe, are a Hamburg-based ensemble as yet hardly known in the UK. I had only once previously encountered their playing in an excellent programme of music by the Bach family on a disc issued in 1995 by Intercord, but alas, not available in the UK. Their performances of the six Brandenburg Concertos, together with the Triple Concerto in A minor (BWV 1 044), and a version of the Fifth Brandenburg which predates by about three years Bach's presentation copy to the Margrave, provide stimulating and mainly satisfying listening. It is perhaps a pity that the earlier version of the
First Concerto was omitted from the recording, since it reveals significant textual variants from the Brandenburg, above all the scoring of the second of the two Trios. But never mind, there are plenty of other features here to divert the listener.
What I like most of all about this set is the sheer vitality of approach to the music, an exuberance which I find infectious, indeed, in one instance I might almost say outrageous. The movement in question is the recurring minuet of the First Brandenburg whose chosen basic tempo is fast enough to take your breath away. That is a pity, for the dance — a particularly graceful one, full of poise — is stripped of all courtly refinement, blurring its lineage. It is, however, the brilliantly executed embellishments of the first and second reprises, that is to say, those which separate the First Trio from the Polonaise, and the Polonaise from the Second Trio, which are most startling of all. These players are having a huge amount of fun and the results are tasteful and undoubtedly virtuosic. At the moment I'm not quite sure what I think of it, but it is certainly wild, recherché and far from boring.
There is little else in the set to shock and much, as I say, that is diverting and thought-provoking. The trumpet-playing in the Second Concerto is in the wonderfully safe hands of Hans-Martin Kothe but I should add that all the brass and woodwind contributions are pretty fluent throughout the concertos which require them. The especially low pitch, about a full tone below standard concert pitch, may take readers some getting used to — it is especially noticeable in the Third Concerto, perhaps, where that brilliance of string tone, familiar from more traditional performances, is absent; but the vigour and sharply focused ensemble playing is such that one is swiftly drawn into this warmtextured, affectionate and stylistically informed music-making.
In short, these robust, honest performances of the six Brandenburgs deserve to be heard. Few, perhaps, will go along with all that is on offer here, but the absence of anything in the nature of musical cant, and the absolute belief in Bach's rhythmic vitality, melodic and harmonic genius, make for an invigorating and joyful encounter.
-- Gramophone [7/1997]
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