Lawrence Axelrod / Ensemble Nouvelle Epoque

Lawrence Axelrod: The Six Brandenburg Fantasias

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Lawrence Axelrod's Brandenburg Fantasias are unlike any of the other works inspired by the Brandenburg Concertos, BWV 1046-1051, or other famous Bach works. They are hardly in any sense neo-classic or neo-Baroque works. The nearest comparison would be Lukas Foss, but they lack even the superficial basis of quotation that marked his Baroque-inspired works. There is one Fantasia for each Bach concerto, but beyond that the structural correspondence breaks down; only two of Axelrod's six Fantasias are in the usual three movements, and neither of those matches the ritornello and aria forms that populate Bach's concertos. Instead, the form of Axelrod's Fantasias follow not from the form of Bach's concertos (although there are a few references to Baroque polyphonic forms), nor from their thematic material, nor even from their tonal contents, but from their details of orchestration. Here again the correspondence is not exact; a harpsichord appears in only one of the Fantasias (No. 2, corresponding to the harpsichord-heavy Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, BWV 1050). But the orchestration of each Fantasia takes off from a prominent texture feature of each of the concertos, or at least one movement from the set. Some passages are aleatoric, but the listener hearing the work devoid of context is unlikely to guess that. It's interesting to hear bits of Bach texture float by in an atonal context, but there's something of the flavor of academic exercise about the whole thing. Still, it is an intriguing entry in the long book of conversations between Bach and other composers.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Fantasia No. 1
1 5:19
2 2:01
Fantasia No. 2
3 3:43
4 4:04
5 2:51
Fantasia No. 3
6 5:44
7 1:50
Fantasia No. 4 (in tempore belli)
8 6:05
Fantasia No. 5
9 1:57
10 3:11
11 3:38
12 2:51
13 1:25
Fantasia No. 6
14 3:21
15 2:50
16 5:19
blue highlight denotes track pick