There are many top-flight recordings of Bach's orchestral suites, small-orchestra distillations of the dance suites that originated in the splendor of the French courts. You can get everything from symphony orchestra versions to historical-instrument readings in a variety of styles, moods, and ensemble sizes. Conductor Sigiswald Kuijken's group La Petite Bande is small (hey, truth in advertising) but not obnoxiously so; the four violins are not drowned out when the trumpets and winds and timpani get going. Kuijken combines a bright, sweet string sound--unusually so for historical instruments--with the agility and transparency a small group makes possible. Many details of orchestration come through; sample the totally fresh and varied Air from the Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068 (the so-called Air on a G string). The result is a very lively, graceful rendition of these suites from a conductor who can be unnecessarily reserved at times. The sound environment of the Begijnhof Church in Sint Truiden, Belgium, is not completely appropriate to the music, which does not need to be sacralized. But unlike other booming church recordings of small-group instrumental music it does no damage.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Suite No. 1 in C major, BWV 1066|
|Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068|
|Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067|
|Suite No. 4 in D major, BWV 1069|