Just before the era when informed period performance practice was coming into vogue, this 2009 set of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos would have been perfectly standard, aside from two peculiarities. Played on modern instruments by the Gewandhausorchester of Leipzig under the direction of Riccardo Chailly, these performances stick pretty much to standard tempos, with rich, almost lush textures; expressive, nearly sweet phrasing; and robust, even muscular rhythms. The musicians clearly love the music and playing together, and their affectionate interplay has the quality of chamber music, despite the size of the ensemble. The soloists are all first-rate, from the horns in the First Concerto through the violas da gamba in the Sixth Concerto, and violinist Sebastian Breuninger's central cadenza in the Third Concerto is especially lovely. Chailly shows himself to be a deft and deferential Bach conductor. Of the peculiarities, one is likely a mistake, and the other is clearly a decision. The former is a slight lurch leading into the final recapitulation in the opening movement of the Third Concerto. The latter is the determination to perform on modern instruments in this day and age of historically informed performance practice. The former is unfortunate, but forgivable by all but the most inflexibly critical. The latter is debatable, with the modern instruments' warm sensuality being embraced by some, and denounced by others.
Bach: Brandenburg Concertos Review
by James Leonard