SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
BACH: Brandenburg Concertos (complete) – Le Concert des Nations/ Jordi Savall, conductor – AliaVox
Published on June 16, 2010
BACH: Brandenburg Concertos (complete) – Le Concert des Nations/ Jordi Savall, conductor – AliaVox Multichannel SACD 9871 (2 discs), 99:33 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
I listened to this album without reading any of the deluxe-packaged notes, and came away with the impression that this was a new recording, so excellent is the SACD. Under that assumption, I was completely surprised by the moderate aspect of the performances, quite judicious in tempo and free from any eccentricities that have so plagued so many performances of the last 20 years. The performances are well-nigh perfection, using such period-stars as Pierre Hantai and Fabio Biondi, though I was not that taken with the hazardous trumpet playing of Friedemann Immer in the second concerto. But to be fair, it was rumored that Trevor Pinnock’s first go at these concertos on Archiv required a ton of takes to get that Baroque trumpet to hit all his notes as well. I can’t think of one period recording that is completely satisfactory in that regard.
By now these concertos, a collection of probably previously-written music that was complied by Bach for a specific presentation purpose, have been given the once-over many times in about as many performances with many differing variances as you could possibly want. A few require warning labels: Reinhard Goebel’s Musica Antiqua Cologne recording on Archiv, much lauded in some places, is so fast as to be a caricature of Bach’s intentions, while others like Neville Marriner’s Thurston Dart reconstructions, as well-played as they are, remain a specialist’s canard, interesting but probably not the real thing. There are at least 160 recordings of this music available—Bach would surely have been amazed that his rehashes became so popular, despite their bench-setting status for the variety to be found in Baroque concertos—and a recommendation for any one “best” recording is simply impossible. I continue to favor the old Nonesuch reading with Karl Ristenpart and all-star soloists (now on Accord), and for period instruments the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (conductorless) on Virgin, while the new SACD Arts recordings of Diego Fasolis and I Barocchisti is stunning, probably the best SA reading out there. To be fair, many like the new Pinnock on Avie as well, though I have not heard it.
This one can join these as a very reasonable and well-executed effort that sports no surprises and satisfies completely. The SACD remastering of this 1991 recording is excellent, though the perspective is slightly back with lots of space around the ensemble. This is part of AlixVox’s “Heritage” series where their older recordings are being re-released at a cheaper price—this one is essentially a two-for-one, not a bad deal at all. Savall’s direction is as usual well-considered and beautifully shaped.
– Steven Ritter