Bach: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1-6. Bruggen, Kuijkens, Bylsma, van Asperen; Leonhardt Ensemble. Sony Seon SB2K 62946.
This was one of the first Brandenburgs to use period instruments, and as its roster of performers demonstrates, it utilized the talents of some of the foremost names in the period-instruments movement. Recorded in Europe in 1976 for the early-music Seon label, the set first appeared in the U.S. in 1977 under the Philips banner and several years later on ABC Seon. Then when CDs came out, the set was issued in America by Pro Arte and in Europe by German RCA. After that it disappeared for a while. Now, it's back as a budget item from Sony, who have apparently acquired Seon's inventory of tapes. Leonhardt's Brandenburgs continue to impress me quite favorably. They are controversial, to be sure, but no matter who is publishing them, I welcome them with open arms, or open ears.
Years ago I included these recordings as a part of a Brandenburg comparison survey I did for another magazine. At the time, I placed them third among over a dozen competitors. But the set never appeared in the review, the editor refusing even to let its name appear in his magazine, he hated it so much. As I said, controversial. Leonhardt adopts some unusual tempos occasionally and there is a bit of awkward phrasing from time to time, especially in the First Concerto, but, after a clumsy start, most of the performances are both creative and sympathetic. Numbers Four and Five are particularly impressive.
The best thing about the recordings, however, is the sound. They still have the best sonics of any Brandenburgs available, and I have heard them all. Furthermore, Sony's transfers are as good as the best; indeed, it was close to impossible to tell the difference between these new remasterings and the German RCAs. With their low cost, first-class sound, imaginative playing, and easy availability, I have to recommend them more highly today than ever before, certainly among the top half dozen sets in the catalogue.
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|Article Type:||Sound Recording Review|
|Date:||May 1, 1998|
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