Pierre Amoyal / Camerata de Lausanne

Johann Sebastian Bach: Violin Concertos BWV 1041 & 1042; Concerto for 2 Violins BWV 1043

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One hard-to-dispute attraction of this Swiss release is the acoustics, which come from a walnut-paneled auditorium in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The sound environment is uniquely warm, conducive to clarity of polyphonic detail, and much more appropriate for Bach's secular music than are the usual churches and stone-walled castle rooms. The fine engineering from the Cascavelle label is placed in service of a thoroughly old-school recording of Bach concertos from violinist-conductor Pierre Amoyal and his handpicked Camerata de Lausanne. Rich string sound is paramount; you can hardly hear the harpsichord continuo in the outer movements (which makes the music sound top-heavy), and in the slow movements it contributes a kind of Impressionist wash. Your mileage may vary with this kind of reading if you're acclimated to the brisk historical-instrument readings that have become the norm, but this is by no means an instance of a symphony orchestra barreling through Bach as if it were Tchaikovsky. Amoyal gives a lot of shape to the orchestra's thematic material, relying not only on articulation but on dynamics and tempo, and the sound of the strings is rich and bright. But the emphasis is never on sheer power and momentum; Amoyal properly structures the music around the polyphonic entrances that make it so interesting: the essence of these concertos, and of Bach's Italianate instrumental music in general, is the density of polyphonic structure that's grafted onto the virtuosic and sensual concerto forms. This is an excellent example of a performance shaped by a single individual; even when working with second violinist Tedi Papavrami or oboist Maurice Bourgue, Amoyal is in control of the details. Put this sensitivity together with the acoustics, and you have a recording that ably upholds older traditions of Bach performance.

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