Customer Review

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bach HIP replacement, March 16, 2011
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This review is from: Bach: Six concertos for the Margrave of Brandenburg (Audio CD)
Well, historically informed performances are beginning to come full circle.

Like Sante Fe Listener, my first complete set of Brandenburg Concertos was Britten conducting the English Chamber Orchestra, back in the 70s, and it has been my favorite. A cozy performance, warm acoustic, full sound, on modern instruments. It was my anodyne for a rainy day, like having a crackling fire going.

Then came the "authentic" or "period instrument" advocates: young turks like Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt. There was an obvious reaction against the prevailing trends of overburdening the old Masters - Bach in particular. Slow overly-reverential speeds and heavy orchestrations seemed to have obscured things.

The "young turks" came out with a Brandenburg set performed by something called the Concentus Musicus. It was an amazing, even subversive contrast between the modern approach and this initial foray into HIP-dom. Buoyant tempi, less interpretive freedom, dampened vibratos, smaller ensembles with more transparent techniques. It was a revelation, but it couldn't replace Britten's warmth for me.

Harnoncourt, et al, opened the way for what became the fully accepted, ascendant HIP movement that employed period instruments and techniques and reassessed everything, including Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, and Berlioz!

Things didn't stop there. Further evolution has occurred to where we've had interpretations that use modern instruments but employ HIP techniques and tempi (check out David Zinman's Beethoven and Schumann symphonies, for example).

And now we have this wonderful recording by Pinnock and his ad hoc Brandenburg Ensemble. He has brought things full circle by employing period instruments, but incorporating some of the characteristics of modern performances! Tempi are not single-mindedly fast, more rubato adds a sense of freedom and emotion, string sounds are warmer not quite as thin, the use of a small chamber ensemble, experimentation with "baroque" pitch, conducted from the harpsichord... - it is a wonderful synthesis of historical and modern approaches, with amazingly ambient sound quality to boot!

I've anticipated something like this. Now that it's here, I am replacing Britten's recording with Pinnock's HIP-er approach as my favorite set of Brandenburg Concertos.
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