Dunedin Consort / John Butt

Bach: Six Brandenburg Concertos

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Bach: Six Brandenburg Concertos Review

by Blair Sanderson

John Butt and the Dunedin Consort are familiar to many listeners for their exquisite recordings of Baroque choral masterworks, such as Handel's Messiah and Bach's Mass in B minor, but this set of Bach's six Brandenburg Concertos is the first instrumental outing for the Scottish period ensemble. Playing original instruments or modern copies, and using a lower tuning of A = 392hz, the group recreates Bach's music with a lively combination of extemporaneous ornamentation and propulsive rhythms that is invigorating for its lack of preciosity. The music is by turns brusque and gentle, and at times quite raucous, as it should be in the Concerto No. 1 in F major with its echoing horn calls, chattering oboes, and buzzing bassoon, and vigorous in the Concerto No. 3 in G major, with its energetic string playing. But the Dunedin Consort is just as likely to be refined and elegant, as it is in the slow movements of all the concertos, and especially in the entire Concerto No. 4 in G major, which is the loveliest performance in the set. This double-SACD package from Linn is one of the more expensive recordings of the Brandenburg Concertos available, but the marvelous depth of field and richness of the sonorities make it well worth purchasing.

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