Bach: Violin Concertos BWV 1041–1043 & 1050R

Guido Kraemer, Frederik From, Bjarte Eike, Peter Spissky violins, Antoine Torunczyk oboe, Concerto Copenhagen, Lars Ulrik Mortensen
cpo 777 904-2

If your initial reaction (like mine, I confess) was, “oh no, not another recording of these concertos!”, time to dispel fears of being anything other than captivated by a series of interpretations that are as finely nuanced without the slightest hint of micro-management as you are ever likely to hear. In the slow movement of the A minor concerto, for example, Frederik From (the only one of the quartet of solo violinists of whom I had never heard!) makes the semibreves the most interesting notes of the piece, by nourishing them as the bar passes with an ornament called vibrato – never was it better applied! His approach to the outer movements of the same work is typical of the COCO’s Bach; every detail is in its rightful place and no fuss is ever made of any particular note or phrase – I have never heard the pause halfway through the final Allegro assai and the pick-up from the basses and violas handled so neatly; I suppose that’s how Bach must have intended it to sound. His rendition of the E major concerto is every bit as impressive, and again it is in the slow movement that he excels – his first entry is guaranteed to raise a few eyebrows. The soloists in the double violin concerto are Peter Spissky and Bjarte Eike, while the final work on the disc features Manfredo Kraemer and Antoine Torunczyk. The same virtues of From’s solo concertos pervade both – effortless virtuosity and evenness of tone across the range of the instrument, beautifully paced with room for free ornamentation and no sense that everything is being centrally controlled. I understand this may not be everyone’s idea of heaven, but it’s pretty close for me. My only regret is that the disc is so short – elsewhere in these pages I have sometimes argued that too much of a good thing is perhaps not a good thing, but with these musicians on this kind of form, I’d take my chances!

Brian Clark