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Bach: Brandenburg Concertos/Brandenburgische Konzerte/Los Concertos Brandebourgeois

2 Ratings: 5.0
Classical album by Johann Sebastian Bach, Musica Antiqua Köln, and Reinhard Goebel

Reinhard Goebel and Musica Antiqua Köln recorded the Brandenburgs in 1986-87 in a style that one can refer to only as punk Baroque. Their readings are characterized by slashing accents, missing articulations, a de-emphasis of melody, and an overemphasis … see full wiki

Tags: Music, Classical
1 review about Bach: Brandenburg Concertos/Brandenburgische...

Breakneck Bach!

  • Apr 11, 2008
Why does Mr. Goebel play his violin so fast, daddy?
Because he can, son.

I suppose that's not an adequate answer. Most of the negative reviews of this performance express outrage at Goebel's tempi, but in fact the only movements of the six Brandenburg Concertos that might be considered abnormally fast are the second of #3 and the first of #6. Otherwise Goebel sets consistently playable tempi, with maximum contrast between the allegros and the adagios. To my ear, the breakneck fiddling on the allegro of #3 sounds authentically thrilling; anyone would have to admit that it's very well played. Concerto #6 isn't my favorite. It has been nicknamed "The Scrub Board" and Goebel chooses to exaggerate its gruffness, not only in tempo but also in bowing technique. I would wager it's not his favorite, either.

What's so darn good about Bach, anyway? Some people may never know. To really appreciate Bach, you need to hear all the voices - all the lines - simultaneously. It's a listening skill not everyone has, and an intellectual mode of listening more than an emotional one. Not that Bach can't be appreciated emotionally! That would be an absurd assertion. But to really hear Bach, you need to follow the counterpoint instinctively, to make sense of three, four, five instruments in a conversation where they all play at once. That's what's so very darn good about Musica Antiqua Koeln's performance of the Brandenburgs: all the lines speak clearly. The precision and balance of the ensemble creates an astonishing musical transparency. I know the Brandenburgs very well; I've played the bassoon and recorder parts in concert. I've been buying and listening to new recordings of them since I was a teenager in the 1950s. Even so, when I listen to this performance by MAK, I invariably "hear" exchanges between parts that I never noticed before. I hear the distinct eloquence of the inner voices. In #5, my favorite of all, I hear the incredible harpsichord of Andreas Staier in every measure, even when the full ensemble is blazing away. Thus, when the harpsichord soars into its otherworldly extended cadenza, the most electrifying moment in all Baroque music, it sounds both inevitable and continuous with the musical development of the allegro.

There are at least sixty performances of the Brandenburgs available on CD currently. Some are superb, some are mediocre, and some should be mercifully retired. Even if you already have a favorite, one of the superb sort, you won't regret hearing Reinhard Goebel's bold interpretation. And if it's too fast for you, all I can say is...listen faster!

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Bach: Brandenburg Concertos/Brandenburgische
Label: Polygram Records
Genre: Classical
Release Date: October 25, 1990
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