Bach for All Time(s)

Review by: David Vernier


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Is there ever a wrong time to listen to the Bach violin concertos? There are no more immediately ingratiating works in Bach’s oeuvre, which easily explains the number of recordings in the CD catalog: more than 150 for each concerto. Although today the “big three”—in A minor, E major, and D minor (for two violins)—tend to be regarded more as advanced student works than as significant concert pieces, violinists know that, while certainly “playable” by competent youngsters, each of these works offers sufficient technical challenges and reams of material, both spirited and lyrical, to engage the virtuoso as well.

Here we have a couple of virtuosos (and a third, Anne Katharina Schreiber, for the transcription of the three-harpsichord concerto BWV 1064R), who with their expert ensemble colleagues treat us to Bach as it should be done: straightforward, no mussing and fussing with stylistic mannerisms and extremes of tempo, and a magnetic attraction and keen ability to exploit the particular features of each work’s rhythmic/thematic signature, features that are immediately evident from the very first measure. The bold, dynamic opening of the A minor requires a matching confidence and assertiveness from the soloist (and orchestra), and a similar approach to the unbridled, straight-out-of-the-gate surge at the beginning of the D minor that leaves no doubt where it’s headed, unstopped, to the finish. Similar attributes mark the themes and rhythmic character of the E major and the three-violin D major concerto realization.

These are period-instrument performances that make their point simply by reveling in the instruments’ natural resonance and color and attending to the details of clean articulation and rhythm that enliven each movement, whether slow or fast. Petra Müllejans and Gottfried von der Goltz apply vibrato where possible, and add tasteful little touches of ornamentation in places such as the repeated sections of the D minor Largo, an effective variation device in this longest of all the concerto movements. Yes, it seems that almost every notable violinist has recorded one or more of these works, and you can’t go wrong with many of them, including modern versions with Julia Fischer (Decca) and Hilary Hahn (DG). Here’s another sure-fire entry whose performances and production values make it an easy choice among the dozens of contenders.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

  • BACH, J.S.:
    Concerto for two violins BWV 1043; Violin Concertos in A minor BWV 1041 & E major BWV 1042; Concerto for three violins BWV 1064R

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