BACH: Concerto in d, BWV 1052R (harpsichord); Concerto in g, BWV 1056R (harpsichord); Concerto in a, BWV 1041 (violin); Sonata in e, BWV 1034 (flute) – Avi Avital, mandolin/ Shalev Ad-El, harpsichord/ Ophira Zakai, theorbo/ Ira Givol, cello/ Potsdam Chamber Academy – DGG B00116801, 56:52 [Distr. by Universal] ***1/2:
Avi Avital is a young Israeli mandolin player who is making his DGG debut with this album of Bach transcribed concertos (and he is responsible for all of the arrangements). Each of the works here are violin pieces or have their origins in that manner, with the exception of the Flute Sonata. The famous D-minor piece for harpsichord is thought to have been for violin initially while the G-minor work was written for oboe—both these works have violin versions in existence. Because the tuning on mandolin and violin are the same, Avital believes there is a natural affinity between the two. I’m not sure I hear that on this album as his playing is quite virile and sometimes lacks nuance and subtlety, though his mannerisms are few and his obvious commitment to the music is apparent in every bar.
The Potsdam Chamber Academy plays very well even though the recorded sound tends to artificially favor the mandolin. Avi Avital is an outstanding player, and I am not sure how much of the detrimental things I hear can actually be laid at his feet, certainly some, though I think the sound balance is not the most natural. But as mentioned, he does play Bach with passion and a firm deliberative intent, and that in itself saves the day here. I look forward to following his development, and those who love Bach will find much to savor here, if not the very last word in interpretation.
Live premiere recording of Bruckner’s 1881-1884 Urtext Edition, 7th Symphony