BACH: Orchestral Suites (complete) – Concerto Koln – Berlin Classics

by | Jan 13, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BACH: Orchestral Suites (complete) – Concerto Koln – Berlin Classics 0300061 (2 discs), 85:59 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:

Bach’s Orchestral Suites are a little unlike anything else he ever wrote. Lully was perhaps the formulator of the form, consisting of a number of dance movements, some of which had really faded from public use by Bach’s time but remained in the composer’s repertory. These French-based dances have survived in manuscript from Bach’s time in Leipzig, so might be from around 1730 even though this cannot be concretely established. The whys and wherefores of the compositional origins remain a mystery, though each work has a very distinctive profile and purpose.

The Concerto Koln is a long-established period ensemble of great finesse and virtuosic properties. This should be, and is, a major release of these pieces, and neither sound nor performance values disappoint one bit. But I do think that the Telarc recording with the Boston Baroque Orchestra and Martin Pearlman has the edge in smoothness and overall execution, even though I have been highly critical of them in the past. On this one they are firing on eight cylinders, and theirs is the one to be reckoned with in the catalog, though I will not fault anyone opting for this current edition as it has much to offer. For those wanting modern instruments, I continue to favor the rather old sixties recording with Karl Ristenpart and company.

— Steven Ritter

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