SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

BACH: Violin Concertos in a & E; Double Violin Concerto in d; Oboe and Violin Concerto – Vesko Eschkenazy, v./ Tjeerd Top, violin/ Alexei Ogrintchouk, oboe/ Concertgebouw Ch. Orch. – Pentatone

Fine recordings like this are always welcome, this one a nice medium between older and newer stylistic practices.

Published on December 13, 2012

BACH: Violin Concerto in a, BWV 1041; Violin Concerto in E, BWV 1042; Double Violin Concerto in d, BWV 1043; Oboe and Violin Concerto in d, BWV 1060 – Vesko Eschkenazy, violin/ Tjeerd Top, violin/ Alexei Ogrintchouk, oboe/ Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra – Pentatone multichannel SACD PTC 5186 460, 60:18 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

This starry release features two principals of what many consider the greatest orchestra in the world: The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. Violinist Vesko Eschkenazy has been principal since 1999, while oboist Alexei Ogrintchouk obtained his seating in 2005—neither disappoint, and it is easy to see how each attained their exalted positions.

The reading of the Double Concerto for Two Violins is completely within modern standards; while they do not abandon vibrato and fully-finessed contemporary violin standards, the tempos are up, and energy is high. The playing in general is suave and forceful, with little done to distract in terms of personal idiosyncrasies. Likewise the two violin concertos; Eschkenazy is quite conscious of the period in which he lives but also gives due consideration to a more relaxed and lyrical approach, never slacking the underlying rhythmic impetus but always projecting in a concerto-like fashion and striving for the purest tone possible. If I continue to laud Lara St. John for her invigorating performances of these works, and Anne-Sophie Mutter’s much older and creamy recordings it is only because the music can take a variety of approaches, of which Eschkenazy’s certainly is one, and a very fine one.

Though the above pieces were composed during a later period after Bach had accepted his Leipzig position, and had finished his cantata cycle and the great St. John and St. Matthew passions, his Double Concerto for Oboe and Violin belongs to a time of great happiness, indeed the greatest happiness of his life during his tenure at Cöthen, after his remarriage to Anna Magdalena Wilcken, the court’s first soprano, and at a time when Bach was greatly influenced by the new music of Vivaldi, the model for this concerto. The three movements display the same rigorous structure that the Italian was to impose on so many of his hundreds of concertos, one that allowed tremendous expression and a huge amount of lyricism. Eschkenazy and Ogrintchouk take this to heart in a reading of tremendous finesse and soaring lines, while the superb Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra employs its sumptuous tonal qualities to good effect.

The surround sound is resonant and enveloping, as if in a fine concert hall. A welcome recommendation.

—Steven Ritter

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