American Bach Soloists / Jeffrey Thomas

Bach: Brandenburg Concertos, Vol. 2

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After 20 years at the helm of the American Bach Soloists, music director Jeffrey Thomas and his ensemble have recorded an impressive assortment of the Bach works available to them, but waited until 2007 to record perhaps the most easily identifiable of all Bach's compositions: the Six Brandenburg Concertos (Vol. 2 of the set contains concertos Nos. 4-6). Having been recorded countless times, making a unique mark on this collection is no small task. Thomas' solution? Varying the continuo instruments. Because Bach did not always specify the instruments to be used, this can be done while still remaining true to the score and instrumentation of the time. The resulting performances give listeners something just new and unique enough to make these recordings interesting. Other aspects of the performance yield quality results, as well. The American Bach Soloists is a technically polished group playing on period and period-reproduction instruments that incorporates historically informed phrasing and articulation, scarce use of vibrato, and nicely stylized ornamentation. Tempo selection is, at times, a little safe. The first two concertos, for example, are quite stoic and laid-back, while the Third Concerto instantly captures listeners' attention with its bright spirit and forward momentum. ABS's overall sound quality is quite good, but balance seems to unduly favor winds and brass, sometimes making it difficult to hear all of the string parts as clearly. Although neither volume 1 or 2 includes any liner notes, they may be downloaded online with relative ease.

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