Lars Ulrik Mortensen / Concerto Copenhagen

Bach: Brandenburg Concertos

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Period-style performances of Johann Sebastian Bach's six Brandenburg Concertos were once a specialized interest, directed at a small audience of connoisseurs of early music. However, after several decades of increased interest and availability on recordings, they have become well-established in the classical mainstream, and most listeners have accepted the historical treatment of these works, played by a small ensemble on original instruments or modern copies, with light textures, crisp sonorities, and varying degrees of ornamentation and improvisation. Concerto Copenhagen, under the direction of Lars Ulrik Mortensen, serves up a straightforward reading of the Brandenburg Concertos on a variety of Baroque instruments, and the ensemble's sound is lean and focused, delivering melodic lines with clarity and without an excess of embellishment, more or less reproducing details as they appear in Bach's scores. Compared with the super-fast performances by John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists, or the rambunctiously free stylings by Jeannette Sorrel and Apollo's Fire, Mortensen's interpretations are almost conservative, and there are no major surprises. To the extent that this version could be called by-the-book, it should give confidence to buyers looking for a solid performance that will meet expectations, with CPO's terrific multichannel sound thrown into the bargain.

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