Written during a magnificently prolific Köthen period, the four violin concertos of J.S. Bach have easily retained their importance in the violin repertoire. With as many violinists who have recorded these great works, there are an equal number of different interpretations and differences of opinion on just how Bach should be performed. The answer rests squarely on the shoulder of listeners and their individual tastes. This Berlin Classics album, a reissue of a 1994 release, features violinist and artistic director Thomas Zehetmair and the Amsterdamse Bach Solisten. The ensemble plays on period instruments, with only one musician on each part. The result is a surprisingly full, rich sound with plenty of dynamic variability and crispness of articulation in the orchestral accompaniment. Zehetmair's playing is unquestionably solid; intonation is precise throughout, articulations are clean and accurate, and musical lines naturally flow from one to the next. Zehetmair imparts a fair amount of rhythmic rubato, often elongating first notes of new phrases. Some listeners may find this to be a distraction and unnecessary interruption of the line. The extreme range of dynamics and sometimes aggressive right arm may also seem unnatural and unappealing to some. As a first recording of these concertos, this album is certainly an acceptable choice. For more seasoned listeners who already have an ideal Bach in mind, the value of this album will come down to how "authentic" of a performance is preferred.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
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