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GRAMOPHONE (09/2016)
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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp

This is an unusual Bach coupling, but to give solo spotlights to both the founding members of Ausonia seems as good a reason as any. The repertoire does push them into a vast competitive field, however, and probably few will care much about the specialness of the running order when there are so many other performances of all four pieces out there to be sampled.

 I fear, however, that these ones will not make much headway against the likes of Andrew Manze and Rachel Podger on the one hand, or Trevor Pinnock and Andreas Staier on the other (to name only some of the period-instrument rivals). True, they have the ideas to make them distinctive – the odd bit of unexpected articulation or rhythmic definition from Mira Glodeanu, some freewheeling ornamentation from Frédérick Haas in the slow movement of the D minor (BWV1052), and a generally bold approach to rhetorical timing and structural delineation – but overall they are rather hard to love. For that the sound must carry some of the blame; though recorded in a church, the balance is dry, with a closeness on the six string players that does little to flatter their intonation and blend, and denies comfort to the ear.

 But the frequent small hesitations and snatches at pulse and phrasing are also more irritating than thought-provoking, and there are times such as the middle section of the first movement of the E major Harpsichord Concerto (BWV1053) when the momentum simply seems to be running out. Unfortunately, such moments outweigh the better ones, such as the air of concentration conjured up by Glodeanu in the slow movement of the E major Violin Concerto (BWV1042) or the brusque energy of the first movement of the A minor (BWV1041). Sad to say, two discs containing better performances of these individual works would still make better value than this one of them all.


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