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Bach - Brandenburg Concertos / Britten, ECO
Johann Sebastian Bach, Benjamin Britten, English Chamber Orchestra
Bach - Brandenburg Concertos / Britten, ECO
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #2

Benjamin Britten's Bach is a "middle-of-the-road" version of these delightful works. They offer no startling departures from the Baroque style favored in the 1960s, but are ripe, polished performances with a fearless tru...  more »

      
   
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Benjamin Britten's Bach is a "middle-of-the-road" version of these delightful works. They offer no startling departures from the Baroque style favored in the 1960s, but are ripe, polished performances with a fearless trumpet soloist in No. 2, and outstanding flute and violin solos throughout. Modern instruments and moderate tempos may seem stodgy these days, but there's integrity in Britten's music-making and this set, recorded in 1968, still sounds fresh, easily holding its own against more recent versions. As an added attraction, London includes concerti for violin and oboe, and flute and strings, both done in the 1970s with Neville Marriner leading light and springy readings of distinction. --Dan Davis

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CD Reviews

Not "authentic," but still one of the best
mr_keiichi | 06/15/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I'll say it right now: THIS RECORDING IS PERFORMED WITH MODERN INSTRUMENTS. You have been warned. Don't buy it if you strongly believe that all Baroque music must be played on Baroque-period instruments.With that said, this is still a very enjoyable rendition of Bach's greatest orchestral works. The small ensemble size makes for a crisp, intimate recording -- almost like having a personal orchestra in your very own home. That's right, these formerly-analog recordings are surprisingly clear and realistic. The performance itself is also top-notch; Britten understands the Baroque style very well and carefully avoids over-romanticizing. At the same time, he makes sure never to become mechanical in the interpretation. Bach's music is notorious for being mathematically precise, but why shouldn't we put some feeling into the musical equation? Everyone sounds like they're having a rollicking good time on the recording, and you will too after absorbing yourself in the music.Speaking of rollicking good times, the soloists go all out on this recording to show off their skills. The unforgettable harpsichord solo in the 5th concerto is as good as any I've ever heard, the violin work in the 4th is absolutely smokin', and I'm sure there's a lot of other great solos that I can't remember right now.The two extra concertos on the second disc (the one for violin/oboe and the other for flute) are a very pleasant surprise -- you may even find them more enjoyable than the Brandenburgs. I would have given this recording 5 stars, but it loses one for not being on period instruments. However, it's still great value for money and an excellent introduction to the music of Bach!"
Wonderful
F. Haji | Toronto, Canada | 12/09/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Frankly I was surprised when I listened to this set. I was expecting a heavy, romantic, modern instrument version of the Brandenburgs. However, Britten's Brandenburgs are very baroque and stylishly played.The fast movements have a lot zest...without excessively fast tempos. The slow movements are warm and expressive. There are no surprises here...nor are there any disappointments...just very skilled music making from the ECO.The recorded sound is excellent! I have said this before, but some of these older analogue recordings have a warmth about them that modern digital recordings lack.A great set, and given the price an bargain too!"
Fine set of Brandenburgs
A reader | Santa Cruz, CA USA | 08/31/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In college I grew up with the Ristenpart / Chamber Orchestra of the Saar recordings of the Brandenburgs (on Nonesuch, LP only; the CD version on Accord is tricky to find). This set is rather like those recordings in spirit, but to my surprise, after much back and forth comparison, I think I like this version even better. Both have a warmth and a vitality; neither is afraid to feel some emotion. But I prefer the recording quality of the Britten version, and the intonation of the horns in particular seems better in this recording. The oboe/horn duet in the last movement of the 1st concerto is downright jolly, almost humorous (I don't know whether it's supposed to be, and I don't care; I just like it).

I also compared this to a recent recording with original instruments, and while I like the idea of using the old instruments, I just don't like the harsh, scratchy violins and out-of-tune horns.

The Britten recordings of the Brandenburgs are also available on Penguin; while the Douglas Adams essays are brilliant, I prefer the London set's two bonus concertos (conducted by Neville Marriner) to the violin concerto on the second Penguin CD. These two concertos are conjectural reconstructions from a harpsichord concerto of earlier works that no longer exist. I find them a colorful addition to the Brandenburgs."