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GRAMOPHONE (05/2013)
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Harmonia Mundi

Code-barres / Barcode: 3149020214527 (ID296)

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Reviewer: Jonathan Freeman-Attwood

Freiburg and its two directors in the Bach violin concertos

The perennial trio of Bach’s only extant violin concertos is given about as authoritative and confident a set of readings by the Freiburgers as you’ll hear on period instruments. With the addition of the radiant BWV1064 (a transcription increasingly more popular than the original three-harpsichord version), principal soloists Gottfried von der Goltz and Petra Müllejans make a strong case for this group as the very finest of their kind in these rich-veined creations.

For the two solo concertos, the approach is one of selecting a conceit for each movement and sticking to guns: the A minor, performed by Müllejans, conveys a stately resonance as she emerges from within the ensemble in swathes of heady legato, while von der Goltz’s account of the E major plays on his inimitably ripe, projected and intense sound to fill this impressive first-movement edifice with commensurate scale and ambition. A fluent and natural discourse with the orchestra expunges the current tendency for contagious, biting accents in this work and only the da capo embellishments reveal an over-played hand. The last movement is a triumph of tripping, Corellian-style exultation.

State-of-the-art ensemble and ‘designer’ phrasing extend into persuasively rhetorical middle movements. In the Double Concerto, the slow tactus of this holy grail is super-poised, each soloist almost indistinguishable, with a uniformity, control and discipline underpinning the exquisite inner voicing of the accompaniment.

For all the subtle and concentrated graduations of expression in these performances, the listener is ultimately left wit a fine architect’s proof rather than personal statements inhabiting vulnerability, contrast and a degree of spontaneity of spirit. Occasional over-harnessing alongside an unyielding ‘full-on’ sound can suck the oxygen out of these event-filled works. Certainly there is lightness of touch here but the exacting sturdiness of the opening ‘triple’ concerto movement hardly encourages the playful smile of three mischievous dancers. Even so, the playing is dazzling and the last movement riffs are irresistible.


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