Splendid Bach concertos by Tafelmusik
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 10/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The two Concerti for Solo Violin BWV 1041-1042 were long thought to have been composed at Cothen between 1717-1723, when Bach was Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold. After all, this is the era in which the Brandenburg Concertos were created, early in Bach's career. There are some stylistic similarities but no mention of them was made in C.P.E. Bach's obituary of his father, nor in Forkel's 1802 biography of Bach, the first one published. Not even Philipp Spitta, the great 19th Century Bach scholar, could provide evidence of their composition date, though he's the source of the Cothen conjecture. Recently, Christoph Wolff, the noted Bach scholar, has argued for a rather later composition date for at least two of the concertos, suggesting they were composed around 1730 when Bach was Kantor at Leipzig. This coincides with when Bach directed the Collegium musicum at the coffee-house of Gottfried Zimmermann. Students, amateurs and the odd professional would gather inside during the Winter or outside in the garden during the warmer months and play both vocal and instrumental pieces. Bach's music was much in demand, especially his concertos. It is one of the great tragedies in music history that fully half of Bach's instrumental music, much of it dating from this period, is lost. The composition date of the violin concertos will probably remain a matter for conjecture.
These three concertos are some of Bach's most lyrical writing, not too difficult to play or to listen to, hence immensely popular. Jeanne Lamon plays the violin in the two solo concertos with great suppleness. The period instrument Tafelmusik accompany her with sensitivity and grace, making these performances some of my favorites. There is a warmth and expressiveness rarely found in any performance, regardless of provenance. Lamon's Santo Serafin c.1730 violin sings with a limpid legato, voice-like, never harsh, always lyrical. If you've been bothered by the sound of period instruments, listen here to what beauty can be produced by historically informed artistry. The rest of Tafelmusik are equally expert.
David Greenberg joins Lamon for the Two Violin Concerto BWV 1043. It is another splendid performance, the two intertwined violins weaving around each other with ease and suppleness. The final concerto on this disc is the Concerto for Three Harpsichords BWV 1064, reworked for three violins. Despite some structural weaknesses, this performance is excellent. There are some truly splendid passages of great beauty, the performers making the best of a practice that was not unusual in the Baroque era. Bach routinely reworked his own music as well as, most notably, Vivaldi's in the Harpsichord Concertos (amongst many other examples). The sound of this disc is exemplary, a product of Sony's 20-bit recording in the 90's.
All of the Tafelmusik recordings made for Sony are rapidly disappearing. I strongly urge that you grab them before they are gone. These wonderful Bach performances are most strongly recommended for their overall excellence.