Pieter-Jan Belder

Bach: Brandenburg Concertos

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Bach: Brandenburg Concertos Review

by James Manheim

Holland's budget-oriented Brilliant label has sometimes been guilty of confusing quantity with quality, but this time out it has produced a superior mid-price release. Although some of the label's Bach offerings have been drawn from its giant Bach boxed set of 2000, this set of Brandenburg Concertos was newly recorded in 2006 in Leiden in a rather over-resonant church (would these concertos have been played in church?). The players, including Pieter-Jan Belder and recorder player Saskia Coolen, are not big names but are well known to those who listen to a lot of historical-instrument performances, and they coalesce into an ensemble in which the players listen to each other and strike a nice balance that reveals many details of Bach's polyphony even as the group maintains a light, sprightly tone. The crucial role of the harpsichord in the Concerto No. 5 in D major, BWV 1050, is especially well delineated; the instrument seems like a brightly colored thread woven in complex patterns through the instrumental tapestry, and in the wild solo passages Belder shows himself the equal of his more famous teacher, Bob van Asperen. The booklet is a bit sparse, and there are certainly recordings that bring a more rollicking energy to the Brandenburg Concertos. But for listeners looking for a top-notch set on historical instruments at a middle-range price, this one is well worth extensive sampling.

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