Dedicated to the Margrave of Brandenburg, J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos are timeless works of art - their variety of styles and instrumental combinations reveal inspiration of the highest order. Karl Richter's Brandenburg Concertos are perfectly paced, clear textured and undeniably stylish. There's a level of sophistication in this performance which few recordings are able to equal. The Munchener Bach-Orchester has a sound that is in the German tradition and thoroughly idiomatic.
Listening to this irresistibly joyful and magnificently musical set of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites, one is immediately struck by two thoughts. First, Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan have been wasting their time concentrating on Bach's dour cantatas, and second, Bach himself was wasting his time writing his melancholy church music when he could have been composing infinitely more cheerful secular music. While Suzuki and his crew have turned in superlatively performed, if spectacularly severe recording of the cantatas, they sound just as virtuosic and vastly more comfortable here.
For Roy Goodman's various roles in the project assume Toad-like proportions. Founder of the Brandenburg Consort, Goodman is not at all content merely to direct these performances but also plays solo violin, violino piccolo and viola as well as penning lively accompanying notes. Well, readers may rest assured that I'm no Badger and am inclined to applaud Goodman's diversity of talent rather than otherwise.
Bach's music was central to the life and career of Yehudi Menuhin and the violonist is captured in his full early bloom in these performances from the 1930s. Joining the teenage Menuhin in the first and most celebrated of his four recordings of the concerto for Two Violins is his teacher and mentor, George Enescu.
As a glance at the titles for this release indicates, this is pretty much an album of reconstructions. In his learned and usefully comprehensive booklet notes, Geoffrey Burgess describes how Bach’s concertos for harpsichord can be shown to have had other intended solo instruments, the oboe in particular, in mind. Bach wrote more solos for the oboe into his cantatas than for any other instrument, and so the lack of concertante works for the instrument argues that several may have been lost or have only survived in other guises.
Akiko Suwanai (born in 1972) is one of the brightest violinists to have emerged in the late 20th century, winning the Tchaikovsky International Competition, the youngest person to do so, in 1990. She has gone on to an impressive concert and recording career that encompasses both traditional repertoire and world premieres. Her 2006 album J.S. Bach: Violin Concertos was an instant success. Her performance is impressive: incisive, nuanced, and idiomatic. Her tone has an appealing warmth, but she remains true to the character of the music and doesn't lapse into Romantic tone quality or interpretations.
Very few conductors have recorded as much Bach as Karl Richter and none can lay a stronger claim to a legacy based on championing the master. Richter's reverence for Bach is evinced by the simplicity, splendor, and grandeur with which he consistently imbued his performances exemplified here by these landmark recordings of the Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites. In Archiv's original-image bit-processing remastered transfers as well, the sound is better than ever. This is cornerstone Bach that should not be missed.