BACH: Brandenburg Concertos 1 – 6 – Concerto Köln – Berlin Classics (2 CDs)

by | Dec 21, 2014 | Classical CD Reviews

BACH: Brandenburg Concertos 1 – 6 – Concerto Köln – Berlin Classics 2 CDs 0300593BC, 1 hour 29 mins (10/28/14)  [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

There is something to be said about Bach as an outright hedonist, and these infectious new performances by Concerto Köln (Cologne) throw a series of inimitable, adorable, delightful and seductive spins on the familiar but never-old Brandenburg Concertos. Obviously looking forward to celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2015, the concertos used a very low tuning pitch of a=392 and sent bassoonist Lorenzo Alpert into the field to use the latest research in matters of sound and instrumentation to find the answers to age-old questions including:

* Which continuo instruments should be used in the various Concertos? 
* What kind of trumpet is called for in the Second? 
* What was meant by “Fiauti d’Echo” in the Fourth Concerto?
* Which viola da gambas did Bach have in mind for the Sixth?

For the “Fiauti d’Echo” called for in No. 4, they use a newly constructed double-flute that was “possibly known to Bach.” They also use different harpsichords for each concerto, and make good use of the violone. For the rest you’ll have to hear the set yourself. It is a brilliant achievement highlighted but by no means limited to solo turns by violinists Markus Hoffmann and Mayumi Hirasaki, cellist Werner Matzke (embellishing the continuo part in entirely new ways), harpsichordist Gerald Hambitzer (gripping in the cadenza of No. Five), trumpeter Hannes Rux (valiant in No. Two), recorder and Echo Flute player Cordula Breuer (breathtakingly beautiful throughout) and horn players Erwin Wieringa and Renée Allen in what turns out to be a rollicking No. One.

The recording was a co-production with the music branch of German Broadcasting (Deutschlandfunk) and was made at their chamber music hall in Köln. Its dry analytical quality and precise balance allows the sheer beauty of the individual sounds to collaboratively, with musicians and engineers, to create that perfectly imperfect experience of hearing while visualizing Bach’s precisely imprecise blueprints come to life.

—Lawrence Vittes

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