Bach, Beautiful And Buttoned

Review by: Jens F. Laurson

BACH_Unbuttoned_PENTATONE_jens-f-laurson_classical-critic

Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 9

“Bach Unbuttoned” sounds like a promise: Hair-down, devil-may-care performances, perhaps irreverent or reverent without being slavishly devout. But at least with some whatchamacallit, swing, or groove. The liner notes even speak of the cheek that we need to rediscover in Bach. What we get is excellent playing and hopes dashed.

Yes, Ana de la Vega plays the flute beautifully, and Ramón Ortega Quero his modern oboe, too. The Heilbronn Chamber Orchestra amiably, expertly performs with them. But ultimately it’s a straight-as-teacher’s-pet, non-distinct performance, even tame by today’s standards. Rinaldo Alessandrini’s Brandenburg Concertos make the ones included here–Nos. 2, 4, and 5–sound like Neville Marriner (as in, for example, the Andante from Concerto No. 4 BWV 1049). The great rebellion we’re offered is that, instead of two flutes in one concerto and two violins in another (Concerto in D minor BWV 1043), the performers use a flute and an oboe. I know. Blush, indeed! If you think that’s daring, then the playing might also sound unbuttoned to you. Perhaps.

Given the promise and build-up, it’s a wild disappointment of a disc. If it were only a humble little Bach CD among dozens of similar such CDs, it would be perfectly fine, the kind you’d not have to feel guilty about playing in the background even with discerning company over. And yet: Beauty can be such a let-down.



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Recording Details:

Album Title: Bach Unbuttoned
Reference Recording: Brandenburg Concertos: Egarr (Harmonia Mundi); Pinnock (Avie); Savall (Alia Vox); Suzuki (BIS); Alessandrini (Naïve)

  • BACH, J.S.:
    Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 2, 4, & 5; Concerto in D minor for Two Violins BWV 1043; “Badinerie” (from Orchestral Suite No. 2)
  • Ana de la Vega (flute); Ramón Ortega Quero (oboe); Alexander Sitkovetsky (violin); Cyrus Allyar (trumpet); Johannes Berger (harpsichord)
  • Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn


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