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International Record Review - (04/2013)
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Harmonia Mundi

Code-barres / Barcode: 3149020214527 (ID296)

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Appréciation d'ensemble/ Evaluation :
Reviewer:  Marc Rochester

Once in a while it falls on a reviewer to have to put into words that which really should speak for itself. Analysing quite why this disc is so impressive — how it is that it becomes an obsession from which you turn away only with the greatest reluctance, how it manages to enervate every sinew of your body (my heart just about stopped with the final flourish from Gottfried von der Goltz in the E major Concerto at 7’2 1”  and how it burrows so deeply into your consciousness that you can think of just about nothing else - is an impossible task. Suffice it to say that while Bach usually brings out the best in those who play and record his music, when those players are already well established as among the best in the business, bringing out the best elevates things to an altogether higher level of musical excellence.

In addition to the usual two concertos for violin and orchestra and the ever-popular Double Concerto (Peter Wollny’s consistently dependable booklet notes point out that, essentially, we should be calling this a Concerto grosso) we have the D major Concerto, better known in its guise for three harpsichords. Wollny is persuasive in his argument in support of this Concerto’s legitimacy as a work for three violins and orchestra, but nowhere as persuasive as the performance itself. Von der Goltz is joined by both Petra Müllejans (his partner in the Double Concerto/Concerto grosso) and Anne Katharina Schreiber, for what proves to be a riveting and utterly absorbing account. The sheer aural spectacle of the three violins piling in on top of each other, like a dazzling avalanche with clouds of sparkling crystals chasing every outpouring, is at times utterly breathtaking, while moments of simply awe inspiring virtuosity put the lie to the oft-stated opinion that Baroque concertos lack the opportunities for virtuoso display which make their nineteenth- century counterparts so crowd-pleasing.

It is easy to concentrate exclusively on the soloists, pointing out copious examples of their unquestionably monumental technique and musical insight and cooing over their intelligent but deliciously discreet ornamentation, and to support my enthusiasm for the disc with copious references to moments of individual brilliance and interpretative insight. But possibly what distinguishes this disc — along with the absolutely top-notch recorded sound — is the utterly committed, and beautifully detailed playing of the Freiburger Barockorchester. If the three soloists are elevated by the brilliance of this music, the orchestra is raised to almost inconceivable levels of musical excellence. The tautness of its ensemble, the sumptuous inner balance, the glorious buoyancy of the continuo playing and the sheer breadth of detail do not just provide outstanding support to these excellent violinists, it vastly enriches the entire musical experience. Perhaps if there is a flaw here, it is in the thickly plodding accompaniment of the slow movement of the A minor, giving it a vaguely elephantine character, but this is quickly alleviated by the delicacy of Müllejans’s lark-like flights of soaring fancy.

This is an absolutely glorious recording in which every single element combines to create something which can best be summarized in a single word: outstanding.

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