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Bach Brandenburg concertos
European Brandenburg Ensemble / Pinnock
Avie AV2119

This recording has one of those useful booklets where the artist anticipates all the questions the reviewer is about to raise. Why another recording of the Brandenburgs, and why again by Pinnock?

Because he can, replies Pinnock. It is in a sense a sixtieth birthday present to himself. How does it differ from his own benchmark recording made 25 years ago? He is less in awe of the composer. Indeed, it is true that the recording glows with affection for Bach, although in other respects it is notably similar to Pinnock 1985.

This means that, in comparison to what is now Baroque fashion, we hear a comfortable tameness in the aural picture. There is no exaggerated attack, and certainly no frenetically fast tempi. Following that now historic Pinnock / English Concert recording, a whole raft of extreme Brandenburgs have populated the landscape, starting with Goebel / Musica Antiqua Koeln and most recently the I Barocchisti version reviewed in these pages.

Does this displace the earlier Pinnock, however? Almost certainly not. Indeed, apart from souvenir purchases from the live concert tour, it is hard to see who the target for this CD set is. Those who don’t know the Brandenburgs would be well off discovering them through Pinnock’s earlier DG Archiv recording, which ahs been endlessly reissued. Those happy with the (several?) versions they already have need not look further.

However, Pinnock could reasonably argue that this new set serves as a record of how Bach is ‘authentically’ performed today, and above all as a corrective to those who crave novelty by producing ever faster or more ‘edgy’ Brandenburgs.

Commendably warm playing and recording, among which the trumpet solo in No 2 stands out.

Ying Chang