Sigiswald Kuijken / La Petite Bande

J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concertos

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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell

Like most of Bach's music, the Six Brandenburg Concertos have been subjected to much discussion, interpretation, argument, and supposition as to proper instrumentation and playing technique. This Accent two-disc set is another example of how a vastly different sound aesthetic can be produced by altering the instrumentation. Founded and conducted by Sigiswald Kuijken, La Petite Bande is billed as a period instrument ensemble, though it should be noted that the vast majority of its players' instruments are in fact modern replicas of period instruments. Like many of his earlier recordings, Kuijken reduces the forces in these recordings almost exclusively to one instrument on a part. Based on his own rather extensive research, he also substitutes what he considers to be more authentic instruments (e.g., the "shoulder held" violoncello da spalla in place of the more familiar "between the legs" variety). In some cases, Kuijken's decisions truly pay off. The natural trumpet used in Brandenburg No. 2 produces an enticingly beautiful, warm sound that is far less abrasive and domineering than the instruments used in other recordings. On the other hand, the natural horns used in the First Concerto are sluggish and somewhat inarticulate. Each member of the small ensemble plays with commendable technical accuracy and vitality. Accent's rather dull, distant sound regrettably mutes some of these characteristics.

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