Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Johann Sebastian BACH

Overtures (Suites) nos 1 - 4

Karl Kaiser (flute) with the Cologne Chamber Orchestra (conducted by Helmut Müller-Brühl)
(no recording date given: probably 1998)
Naxos 8.554609 [77:48]

My guess as to the dating of this recording is based on the last sentence of a piece in the record booklet about the orchestra: ' . . .in 1998 the Cologne Chamber Orchestra was able to look back on 75 years of existence.' More importantly, the same note tells us that in 1987, Müller-Brühl, who has conducted the orchestra since 1964, decided to change from period to modern instruments 'to meet the needs of modern concert halls.'

On the evidence of this magnificent disc, the change was fully justified. To their long experience of baroque performance practices, these players now add further dimensions of tonal weight and brilliance and security of intonation.

Underpinning the performance of all four suites is Müller-Brühl's sure grasp of rhythmic clarity, with the characteristic double-dotting razor-sharp in its precision. The various quicker dances bounce along effortlessly, but the more relaxed and occasionally melancholy movements (notably in the second suite) are no less impressive. In the two D major suites, trumpets and drums sound forth with regal splendour while the famous air from the third suite is invested with an ethereal beauty, much enhanced by restrained, indeed poignant, ornamentation.

It is only right for the spotlight to fall on Karl Kaiser (flute) for his commanding role in the second suite. His immaculate line and dynamic subtlety never waver, and his exuberant account of the final Badinerie quite breathtaking. But all the soloists excel, especially a richly toned and agile bassoonist.

This disc is a real winner in every respect.

Adrian Smith



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