Bach: Brandenburg Concertos 1-6

Claudio Abbado / Orchestra Mozart

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Bach: Brandenburg Concertos 1-6 Review

by Blair Sanderson

Claudio Abbado isn't a name one associates with early music, in light of his impressive career conducting the masterworks of the Romantic and modern eras. Indeed, he didn't conduct any music by J.S. Bach with the Berlin Philharmonic until as late as 1994. Yet when he's leading the talented Orchestra Mozart of Bologna in Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, his ease with the music and his players is obvious, and the performances have almost as much Baroque style as many versions by period ensembles of greater longevity. Abbado led this ensemble in all six Brandenburgs in 2007 at the Teatro Municipale Romolo Valli in Reggio Emilio, and the live performances were recorded by Deutsche Grammophon with close attention to details, as befits chamber music. As a result, everything is crystal clear and the timbres of the instruments -- ostensibly modern, not Baroque originals -- have much of the individual character one finds in historically informed performances. Yet this should not be confused with an authentic historical re-creation, even though the tempos are brisk and the playing has a certain period tang about it. Abbado observes the main points of Baroque scholarship, such as lively tempos and small numbers of players, but the lack of free ornamentation and the minimal use of improvisation mark these as mainstream performances, albeit with appropriate touches of Baroque techniques and color.

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