Itzhak Perlman / Daniel Barenboim / Pinchas Zukerman

Bach: Violin Concertos

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It is impossible to recommend Itzhak Perlman's early-'70s recordings of Bach's three Violin Concertos coupled with his Concerto for violin and oboe. Movements that should be light and effervescent are thick and gooey. Movements that should be deep and profound are turgid and gluey. Movements that should sing and soar are torpid and gummy. And that's just the playing of the English Chamber Orchestra. Then there's Perlman's playing. One might be able to argue that Perlman's gelatinous tone and glutinous technique are appropriate in Romantic repertoire, but in Bach's Violin Concertos, Perlman's playing is the aural equivalent of pouring a quart of maple syrup on a piece of asparagus. It's not just that Perlman uses vibrato; it's that he uses it on nearly every note, covering Bach's lean and muscular lines with oil. It's not just that Perlman uses portemento; it's that he slides between nearly every pitch, coating Bach's strong and angular themes with grease. It's not just that Perlman plays Bach's concertos as if they were written by a fourth-rate late Romantic composer; it's that he turns direct and powerful music into a mucilaginous mess. EMI's sound is a little too reverberant and lacks clarity.

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