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GRAMOPHONE ( 02 / 2018)
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Reviewer: Alexandra Coghlan

The gently punning title of this new recording from the countertenor Andreas Scholl comes from a quotation by Bach. In the title-page dedication of his Brandenburg Concertos the composer describes the works as the result of ‘… the small talents that Heaven has given me for Music’. Gifts of both kinds are amply evident here, in a recording that cherry-picks its way through some of Bach’s best bits to create a programme that will send you back to your CD collection to listen to the full works.

Joining forces with the recorder player Dorothee Oberlinger and her period group Ensemble 1700, Scholl revisits some familiar Bach through the lens of recorder obbligatos. There are two complete Brandenburg Concertos (Nos 2 and 4), the cantata Vergnügte ruh, beliebte Seelenlust and the Harpsichord Concerto in F minor (repurposed here, not entirely successfully, for a wilfully bright soprano recorder) framed by sundry other bit and bobs including the ‘Jesu, joy’ chorale and the lovely title-aria from the cantata Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen.

Scholl’s voice, with its bright directness and woody lower register, is a natural partner for Oberlinger’s solo recorders, and the combination works particularly well in ‘Leget euch dem Heiland unter’ from Himmelskönig, sei wilkommen, where he and Oberlinger find a lovely combination of grit and polish for this heartfelt musical prayer. There’s an edgier, more complicated quality to Scholl’s voice these days that lends itself better to minor-key arias with their human frailties and doubts. ‘Wie jammern mich doch die verkehrten Herzen’ from Vernügte ruh is beautifully shaped.

The two Brandenburgs are an earthy delight, their individual solo colours well balanced in the mix. Speeds are moderate and the emphasis is on warmth and energy rather than blinding virtuosity. That said, violinist Dmitry Sinkovsky’s many solo contributions to the disc are real attentiongrabbers – period string-playing of the very finest order.


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