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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto No.2 in E, BWV1042 [17:11]
Violin Concerto No.1 in a minor, BWV1041 [14:33]
Partita No.2 in d minor, BWV1004 [32:04]
Daniel Lozakovich (violin)
Kammerorchester des Symphonieorchesters des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Radoslaw Szulc
rec. August Everding Saal, Musikschule Grünwald, October 2017 (concertos); Teldex Studio, Berlin, November 2017 (BWV1004)
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4799372 [63:42]

This is not, as I at first thought, Daniel Lozakovich’s recording debut: at the age of 15 he appeared in Bartók’s Duos, very ably partnering Daniel Hope on the latter’s tribute to his mentor Yehudi Menuhin (DG 4795307). Slightly confusingly, DG then spelled his name in the Swedish manner Lozakovitj; he is, in fact, Swedish of Russian origin.

Whereas the independent labels introduce us to less familiar music, often by neglected composers, the Universal group and DG in particular have an excellent track record in introducing us to new, young talent. And in Lozakovich they certainly have another major discovery on their hands, someone who seems to have an instinctive feel for Bach.

My full review of another young performer’s Bach has been much delayed because a serious back problem has prevented me from sitting long enough at the computer to pull together all my comments into a coherent review, though I have given it a strong recommendation in one of my recent Short Review round-ups. I make no apology for repeating my recommendation of Konstantin Volostnov’s 3-CD set of the organ Concertos, Sonatas and Toccatas, one disc for each. (Melodiya MELCD1002523 – on CD from Amazon UK, download from Presto). In terms of Lozakovich's solo contribution, this DG release is further cause for celebrating the prospects of the new generation of Bach performers.

With period-instrument performances of Bach almost de rigeur, could this new recording be the answer for those seeking a recording on modern instruments with a sense of period style in the manner of Neville Marriner’s ground-breaking releases with the Academy of St Martin-in-the Fields? Lozakovich plays a 1713 violin in modern tuning, and though Radoslaw Szulc is listed as director, the notes imply that the soloist also directs the orchestra.

Yes and no. Let me say at once that this is a huge improvement on the big-band Bach of the past and even on what once passed for stylish chamber-scale Bach, such as I Musici’s recordings of the Violin Concertos. I gave those to the charity shop years ago but you can still sample their 2-CD album containing the two solo violin concertos and the Brandenburg Concertos by streaming from Naxos Music Library. The timings tell the story before you listen: 19:43 for the E-major and 15:44 for the a-minor.

Turn back to I Musici now and, though there are some nice touches, the overall effect is lumpen. And yet, as recently as when their recordings, with Messrs. Ayo and Michelucci were reissued on the Philips Universo label in 1972, as fine a reviewer as Robert Layton was able to describe the playing as setting ‘a steady measured pace [with] the finish one expects from this celebrated ensemble’ and ‘never less than elegant’. That for a recording of the opening allegro of the E-major which takes 9:20 and now sounds really dragged out.

Even the classic recording of these concertos by Arthur Grumiaux, with Hermann Krebbers in the double concerto and Heinz Holliger in BWV1060, probably still the best of the traditional accounts, though the movement sounds much livelier than I Musici, at 8:08, seems to drag a little by comparison with more recent rivals (Philips 4207002, download or stream only).

Turn to the new DG recording of that movement and one enters another world. At 7:49 this is not the speediest of recent recordings – mere seconds faster than Grumiaux – but it has a momentum, a lift and a sparkle totally absent from I Musici’s dutiful account.

So why am I not totally convinced? At 7:02, Alina Ibragimova with Arcangelo and Jonathan Cohen (Hyperion CDA68068, BWV1041 and 1042 with three reconstructed concertos – review) is much lighter still, almost as different from the DG as that is from I Musici and the difference, I believe, lies in the fact that Arcangelo are accustomed to play as a chamber-scale unit, on both modern and period instruments, whereas the Bavarian players are essentially a cut-down version of a full-size symphony orchestra and don’t quite convey the lightness of the best recent Bach recordings.

It’s not so much a matter of tempo: Cecilia Bernardini with the Dunedin Consort directed by John Butt is mere seconds faster than the DG team, at 7:40. Though less light-footed than Ibragimova and Arcangelo, and sounding slightly sedate by direct comparison, this recording also benefits from the Dunedin Consort working together regularly at this scale (Linn CKD519 – review).

Ultimately, then, I’d turn to one of the recordings that I’ve mentioned, or to Rachel Podger with Brecon Baroque (Channel Classics CCSSA30910, SACD – DL Roundup November 2011/1) or Andrew Manze with the AAM (budget-price Harmonia Mundi HMA1957155 – review) or Masaaki Suzuki’s Bach Collegium (BIS-CD-961) or Giulio Carmignola with Concerto Köln (DG 4792695 – review) in preference to the new DG where, for all its virtues, I found the accompaniment a shade too heavy.  That's just too many very fine alternatives to give an unambiguous welcome to the new recording.

A further consideration concerns the sizeable filler. Where others offer the double concerto – could Daniel Hope not have returned the favour of two years ago and recorded the second part? – and/or some of the reconstructed concertos, Daniel Lozakovich chooses to offer the Violin Partita No.2. Beautifully as he performs this, though the style will not appeal to outright period-performance purists, it comes from a different part of the multi-faceted Bach world and may not gel with those who enjoy the more immediately appealing concertos. Certainly, it seems to me wrong to place it after the concertos, but then the logic of the placing of works within an album often eludes me. Perhaps it would have been better between the two concertos – or, better still, left for the complete recording of the Bach violin sonatas and partitas that I hope Lozakovich will give us in due course.

I have judged these well-recorded performances by the highest standards. Taken on their own, they are enjoyable and prospective purchasers with access to Naxos Music Library should sample them there. That also includes a pdf version of the booklet which, as is the case far too often now, is all about the performer and not at all about the music. Most of the recordings that I’ve mentioned tell us the number of performers, for example, information which would have been welcome in determining just how much the Chamber Orchestra is reduced in size from its Bavarian Radio big brother. 

These are enjoyable performances from a soloist with a fine future, but the accompaniment is slightly less convincing.

Brian Wilson
 

 




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