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GRAMOPHONE (09/2022)
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Reviewer :
Mark Seow


If you wish to test the mettle of a recording of Bach’s Overtures – known to many as his Orchestral Suites, or as here, his ‘Ouvertures-Suites’ – go straight to the Suite No 2, BWV1067. The joyous swing of the Ouvertures from Nos 1 and 3 are easy, relatively speaking, to carry off; the Second Suite in B minor is a more mysterious creature to capture. Or, as you might spot here, it’s actually in A minor. Olivier Fortin and Ensemble Masques are inspired by the musicological moves made by Gonzalo X Ruiz on his recording with Monica Huggett and her Ensemble Sonnerie on which solo flute is replaced by oboe. Numerous copying errors in the manuscript parts suggest that the Suite was originally a whole tone lower, making it too low to be playable on a flute from Bach’s time. It’s a musicologically sound decision, and with fine results, too. Oboist Jasu Moisio, whose tone I have previously praised as ‘honeyed and enticingly thin’ (8/21), is on excellent form. There’s little between these interpretations: Fortin’s outer sections are a tad slower and so struggle with achieving the sense of line that Huggett garners in sumptuous, rhetorical spades. Yet for me, Fortin’s central section is a winner. There’s such life and vitality to the interaction of the musical lines, and the balance is not only expertly judged but also interesting.


A quick note on the Badinerie (Alpha, despite the musicological scrutiny given to other decisions, does not take up Bach’s spelling of ‘Battinerie’ in the autograph parts). Huggett’s take is a few whiskers faster, and the effect is light and elfish. The sound is more filled out by Ensemble Masques, despite their single-string forces, and Moisio’s oboe is enjoyably pungent, even syrupy. The character of the movement is a curious blend of circus and duel. The comic and the serious intertwine, and while copiously elegant, it’s a performance that doesn’t take itself too seriously.



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