The Brandenburg Concertos are an encyclopedia of Baroque concerto manners; consciously styled as so, naturally, by the completist Bach, determined to prove his excellence in all areas of contemporary musical achievement (bar opera). Instrumental colours are whirled in kaleidoscopic combinations, from the extrovert trio of hunting horns in the First to the intimate string consort including violas da gamba in the Sixth.
The expressive characters of each concerto are no less varied, from the trumpet-led high spirits of the Second to the rather more ambitious, even proto-Romantic sensibility of the Fifth with its gigantic cadenza for the keyboard capping the first movement.
Bach clearly aimed to show his mettle to the Margrave of Brandenburg when he sent him a richly ornamented copy of these concertos; no doubt to prove his versatility at a court wealthier and more glamorous than the comparative outpost of Weimar where Bach was retained as Kapellmeister. Much good this putative job application did him: Bach never even received an acknowledgement.
These sprightly, rhythmically driven modern performances are soaked in Leipzig’s long Bach tradition. The great tenor and conductor Peter Schreier was himself a chorister in Bach’s Thomaskirche, and the CPE Bach Chamber Orchestra is his handpicked group of instrumentalists. They are joined by a distinguished array of soloists as required, including the flautist Irena Grafenauer, oboist Maurice Bourgue, and no less than Simon Preston as the harpsichord soloist in the Fifth Brandenburg.
“Simon Preston gives an admirably lucid account of the harpsichord solo in the opening movement of the Fifth Concerto… Both (Triple) concertos receive animated performances and there is plenty to enjoy in the solo playing.”
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