Notes and Editorial Reviews
This new recording of violin concertos by Bach contains not only the three well-known pieces in A minor (BWV1041), E major (BWV1042) and D minor (for two violins, BWV1043), but also another D minor work (BWV1060), which is almost invariably heard, nowadays, in its putative version, sometimes in C minor, for violin and oboe. Here, it is treated as a double concerto for two violins. All four works, incidentally, have survived in eighteenth-century Leipzig sources for one or two harpsichords and strings. Andrew Manze, the soloist in the A minor and E major Concertos and here directing the AAM, has consulted those sources and perhaps others, too. His conclusions are, to some extent, reflected in the performances as he explains in an
I find Manze’s playing, and that of his partner in the double concertos, Rachel Podger, engaging on a number of different levels. Welcome indeed, is the absence of intrusive mannerism, the offspring of too rigid an adherence to dogma. Instead these artists allow the poetry of Bach’s music to unfold in a comfortably measured, lucidly punctuated and eloquently inflected way. Manze himself projects a highly developed sense of fantasy in his interpretations and, while on occasion I have sensed it to have been a shade too much of a good thing, it proves immensely effective here. And like the Frenchman who once commented so favourably upon Vivaldi’s orchestra at the Pieta in Venice, I found myself admiring, time and again, the premier coup d’archet, the crisp orchestral attack of the tuttis which breathes life into the performances. The opening of the A minor Concerto is a particularly telling instance, but there are countless others to be found in the ripieno sections of each work.
The two double concertos come over lyrically and with splendid rhythmic energy. Where BWV1060 is concerned there is much to be said for performing the piece with two like solo melody instruments. The relationship between the two violins is not, in fact, as close as that which exists in the other, great D minor work (BWV1043) but, as Manze remarks in his note, the poetic Adagio does come off uncommonly well on what I might be permitted to describe in these pages as a “matched pair”. Even so, I found this piece to be less satisfying than the remaining three, if only because the ensemble and tuning in the tuttis of the opening movement are less clean than elsewhere. But in the slow movements of both the partnership of Manze and Podger is a rewarding one.
In short, here is a disc which is likely to make wide appeal to readers. Everything is done with thought and affection for Bach’s music as well as with a recognition of its expressive potential. I was frequently beguiled by Manze’s skilfully achieved dynamic shading, restrained but effective as, for instance, in the penultimate tutti of the Allegro assai of the E major Concerto. Strongly recommended.
-- Nicholas Anderson, GRAMOPHONE (
review of original release)
Works on This Recording
Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Andrew Manze (Violin),
Rachel Podger (Violin)
Academy of Ancient Music
Written: 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany
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