Bach: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1-4

Neville Marriner

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Bach: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1-4 Review

by Blair Sanderson

While most serious listeners already have their favorite set of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, newcomers searching for respectable recordings at a reasonable price would do well to start with these performances by Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Released on two separate discs in the EMI Classics budget line, these recordings were made in 1985 and still offer fine sound for early digital recording and exceptional musical value. If comparisons may be made without seeming categorical, Marriner's Brandenburgs are perhaps similar in interpretation and feeling to the recordings made by Benjamin Britten with the English Chamber Orchestra, for both are reasonably authentic in spirit and execution, though they use modern instruments and have a fairly full sound for the size of their orchestras. In this regard, Marriner's performances may not be as exacting and scrupulous about Baroque performance practice as those of Gustav Leonhardt or Trevor Pinnock, but they are informed by serious scholarship and have sufficient appeal to make the finer points debatable. Since this disc only covers the first four Brandenburgs, listeners who like it will feel obligated to seek out the second volume, which presents the Brandenburg Concertos No. 5 and No. 6 and Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 1.

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