Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto in D minor for two violins, BWV 1043 [14:20]
Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041 [13:13]
Violin Concerto in E major, BWV 1042 [16:08]
Concerto in D minor for two violins, BWV 1060 [12:45]
Rachel Podger (violin)
The Academy of Ancient Music/Andrew Manze (violin)
rec October 1996, Blackheath Concert Hall, London

This is a very welcome reissue, mostly due to the wonderful zip to the sound. Any time I listen to a disc of the complete Bach violin concertos I always start with the wonderful E major concerto, and its athletic energy is really compelling here, full of conversational spark and wry energy.  This is put on hold for the elegantly spacious Adagio, before bounding off again in a dance-like finale.

The famous Double Concerto also bounces along with fantastic energy.  It’s very light on its feet and, for me, utterly convincing.  The two violins are separated in the stereo sound, but only very slightly so that they are distinguished from one another, and never so much as to prove distracting.  It’s very subtly done and very effective.  The great Largo might sound a tiny tad on the thin side, but it’s not parched, and it’s a good one to set alongside the (equally valuable) old school wallowers like Zukerman and Perlman.  The ornamentations are also very sensitive: one tends to lead where the other follows and the effect is very convincing.  More serious musical argument follows in the finale, but it wears its contrapuntal skill lightly and it had me convinced.

The other double concerto, more frequently heard in its arrangement for two harpsichords, works very well with two violins, most clearly in the slow movement, but the contrapuntal to-and-fro of the outer movements also sounds marvellous, and the finale is a marriage of the sparky and the slightly edgy. The A minor concerto had me slightly less convinced, the first movement a little too severe for my taste; however, the central Andante makes up for it with playing of unhurried, sensual beauty, as soloist and orchestra weave in and out of one another’s texture beautifully. This is showcase Bach playing, and the cheaper price helps.

Simon Thompson
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