|Review by Jan Hanford:|
This is another review in my series: "Which Brandenburg?"
This recording is excellent. But first some background:
Max Reger arranged the Brandenburgs in 1904-1905 at the request of Henri Hinrichsen, owner of the C.F. Peter Publishing Company in Leipzig. According to the information booklet included with the cd, "at the turn of the century only a few of Bach's works were common cultural knowledge." Part of Reger's motivation to create these arrangements was to make Bach more popular and accessible to those who didn't know his work. The arrangements were considered controversial and called "blasphemy" by some academics. My view towards these arrangements is that they are an alternative version; they encourage the listener to experience some details and nuances that are not as obvious in the orchestral version. Music on piano just "feels" different than an orchestra and it is worthwhile for that reason alone. I should point out that Bach himself transcribed some Vivaldi (and other) concertos for keyboard, so this recording seems completely in keeping with his point of view.
Now, the recording: wonderful! My only criticism is I would have liked a little less reverb so the piano sounded a little closer. But this is a minor complaint, the recording is beautiful. As a keyboardist I am delighted at just the idea of performing the Brandenburgs (I've done it and loved it). And the performers here are excellent. Their playing is rich, powerful, sensitive and delicate: all the things I like Bach to be. The tempos and dynamics are very good. A couple of the movements are played very fast. Although I find this sort of tempo upsetting in an orchestral performance I think it works here and has the feeling of any of Bach's keyboard works played quickly. The violin solo in the third movement of Concerto No. 4 is particularly impressive.
Apparently this is the first recording of the arrangements on cd. Considering the obscurity of them I wouldn't expect too many more. I am particularly fond of piano music so I find this recording rewarding on several levels. For anyone who loves the Brandenburgs, I highly recommend this recording as a way to enjoy an old favourite with a new sound.