Within a short time, early music enthusiasts had to say their farewells to two personalities who, for half a century, influenced the development of what we call the authentic interpretation of early music: Gustav Leonhardt and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. In 1950 Supraphon made a complete recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos performed by a chamber ensemble led by a musician of Czech origin, Josef Mertin (1904-1998). A scholar and organ builder as well, he relentlessly dusted the works of composers from the previous centuries (including Guillaume de Machaut), stubbornly seeking the way to give their music its authentic sound. The names of his pupils who took up his legacy make an impressive list that includes Claudio Abbado, Mariss Jansons andRead more Zubin Mehta. Mertin managed to win a number of students for the interpretation of early music on period instruments, among them musicians without whom we can hardly imagine the field nowadays. The Brandenburg Concertos were performed by an ensemble whose members were the 22-year-old cembalist Gustav Leonhardt, a rising violin star Eduard Melkus and - a year younger - the violoncellist Nikolaus Harnoncourt. It was the first time that a chamber-sized ensemble and period instruments were used. Hopefully, listening to the recording will convince you that it is more than just a historical document. As far as Mertin and Harnoncourt are concerned, this unique recording is also a proud reminder of their Czech roots.
Recorded in Vienna, 1950
Use minimal vibrato, full tone, and long bows contributes to a warmly responsive string body that makes the Third snd Sixth concertos especially satisfying. The trumpet solo, though too recessed to engage in full dialog with the recorder, is played with admirable polish.
Mertin was far too good a musician to lapse into the kind of typewriter Bach that a one-dimensional idea of historical rectitude imparted to Baroque music in the middle decades of the 20th century. Overall, this set is essential listening for Bach recording historians.