"These are the most electrifying Brandenburg concertos to hit the market in a long while. John Eliot Gardiner conducts two of them. Otherwise, his superb period-instrument musicians navigate Bach’s fun and games for themselves. The horns in the first concerto whoop quite rudely; but every instrumental colour is bold, in tune with Bach’s daring mix of unlikely solo partners. The best qualities of all? The ebullience, the clarity and the springing gait. An irresistible record." *****
The Times - 27 October 2009
"John Eliot Gardiner’s discography runs across four decades, and by now includes most of the canonical works of the 17th and 18th centuries, but extraordinarily he has never before made a recording of perhaps the best known of all Bach’s instrumental works. In an essay accompanying this new set, taken from concerts in London and Paris earlier this year, Gardiner explains that while he has regularly included the first and second Brandenburgs in his concerts, those were the only works in the set that he felt were “grand and complex enough” to require a conductor. Here, then, Gardiner saw himself as facilitator rather than director, offering advice to his hand-picked musicians, led by violinist Kati Debretzeni, rather than laying down the musical law, and the results do have the feeling of, if not chamber music-making, enhanced by the vivid closeness of the recording. There are so many excellent recordings of the Brandenburgs that deciding on any one comes down to personal taste, but this set is a fine example of the mainstream period-instrument approach." ****
..."Although I’ve not had this recording for very long, I can already tell that it’s going to offer lasting listening pleasure. I’m just starting to relish the subtleties of phrasing and articulation – so many little new ideas – which one easily misses the first few times one listens. None of the concertos stands out from the pack as markedly more impressive or insightful than the others. Indeed, what particularly catches the ear are the final fast movements – where the relish of the dance is perfectly balanced with a deep understanding of the textural and rhetorical riches just beneath the surface. For the last four concertos in particular, this is unmissable."
International Record Review
"...The ensemble playing is a model of cohesive teamwork, but the players also shine as individuals in the many virtuoso solo passages peppered throughout the set, bringing excitement to some ear-poppingly difficult writing without ever losing the line of musical thought..."
"The Brandenburgs are a surprising gap in the discography of so dedicated a Bachian as John Eliot Gardiner. Even now, he hasn’t really filled it. His name graces the cover of his label’s lavishly presented discs, but he takes a back seat to the principal violinist and soloist, Kati Debretzeni, relegating his own role to that of adviser, second pair of ears and booklet annotator – his essays are always a pleasure to read, scholarly and passionate. At last year’s Spitalfields winter festival, he programmed the concertos in six concerts, as “interludes” between the Bach motets and the cantatas of the Christmas Oratorio. All were recorded live at the Cité de la Musique, Paris, in January, except No 5, at the Cadogan Hall in April. Gardiner sees Bach’s unique set of concerti grossi (grand concertos) as chamber works, with only Nos 1 – scored for three oboes, two horns, bassoon and strings – and 2 – with violin, recorder, oboe, recorder and clarion (high trumpet) solos – considering large-scale works. Even with this hands-off approach, however, Gardiner’s Bachian zeal hovers over the performances: these are refreshingly unmannered accounts, brilliantly played. Neil Brough’s clarion, in the exposed solos of the F major’s outer movement, amazingly matches the delicacy of the recorder, oboe and violin, never drowning them out. The Fourth – for violin and two recorders – and Fifth – with solo violin, flute and harpsichord – have rarely sounded more intimate, while the all-string concertos, the Third and the violinless Sixth, tingle with the spirit of baroque dance." *****
The Sunday Times
PERFORMANCE ***** RECORDING *****
A spirited set of Brandenburgs
"Here’s a performance to chase the winter blues away, as John Eliot Gardiner and his English Baroque Soloists add a spring to Bach..."
..."Here, at last, is a set of Brandenburg Concertos whose constituent elements are pretty well uniformly satisfying and which is proving to be a constant delight. It is not only that the playing is consistently excellent, but also that the performers, individually and corporately, enter Bach’s dialogue with such eloquently measured declamation."...
BBC Music Magazine
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