BBC Music Magazine
Brisk, unsentimental Bach proves a winning formula
The performances of these arrangements and concertos are truly a cut above, says Jan Smaczny
Violin Concertos; Concerto for Two Violins; Trio Sonatas – in D minor, BWV 527; in C, BWV 529; Overture No. 2 in B minor; Sinfonias from Cantatas BWV 21, 174 & 182 Isabelle Faust (violin), Xenia Loeffler (oboe); Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin/bernhard Forck Harmonia Mundi HMM 902335.36 143:48 mins (2 discs) This comprehensive collection of Bach’s music for concertante violin includes the two well-known concertos for violin in A minor and E major, and the D minor Double Concerto for two violins. They are joined by the C minor Double Concerto for violin and oboe – an arrangement of a work that has come down to us in a version for two harpsichords – and two other harpsichord concertos reworked for solo violin. The remaining items on this generously-filled two-disc set include sinfonias from cantatas featuring the violin and various reconstructions, including an imaginative recasting of the C major organ trio.
Throughout, the playing is of the highest order. Isabelle Faust is rightly celebrated for performances of the Romantic repertoire, including one of the finest recordings of Dvoák’s Violin Concerto, but here she also excels. The tone is set in an arrangement of the D minor Harpsichord Concerto: the tempo is brisk, but nowhere does it seem like an incoherent rush. Faust eschews grandstanding and plays it very much as an ensemble piece in harmony with the consistently excellent Akademie Für Alte Musik Berlin. Her tone is both lean and exquisitely sweet, combined with consistent stylistic elegance which reaches the heights of eloquence in the slow movement of the E major Concerto.
Among many other delights is the Sinfonia from Cantata 174, Bach’s own arrangement of the first movement of the Third Brandenburg Concerto, with delicious horn punctuation. A fleet-footed, unsentimental reading of the much-loved Double Concerto crowns a sequence of field-leading performances.
Isabelle Faust’s tone is both lean and exquisitely sweet