J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Brandenburg Concertos

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Gustav Leonhardt
Accompaniment/Orchestra:Bruggen, Kuijken, Bylsma et al.
Soloists:Sigiswald Kuijken, baroque violino piccolo, baroque violin, viola
Lucy van Dael, baroque violin and viola
Anner Bylsma, baroque violoncello
Wieland Kuijken, baroque violoncello, viola da gamba
Anthony Woodrow, violone
Claude Rippas, baroque trumpet
Frans Bruggen, recorder, transverse flute
Paul Dombrecht, baroque oboe
Ab Koster, natural horn
Bob van Aspren, harpsichord continuo
Gustav Leonhardt, harpischord
Individual Works:Brandenburg Concertos:
No. 1 in F, BWV 1046
No. 2 in F, BWV 1047
No. 3 in G, BWV 1048
No. 4 in D, BWV 1049
No. 5 in D, BWV 1050
No. 6 in B-flat, BWV 1051
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:SONY
Catalog Number:SB2K 62946
Year Released/Recorded:1976/77
Total Playing Time:99'39
Comments:Hou Fang-Lin said:

Remastering of the legendary Leonhardt interpretation--once again one can now savor his relatively cool but absolutely sensitive approach to the music--listen to, for example, his playing of the long cadenza in the fifth concerto to see how he can make the music "roll by itself" without the need of any rhythmic distortion.

Jordan Sayers said:

Although this disc was recorded long before the era of "DDD", the sound dynamics are comparable to modern recordings. I have a number of "Brandenburgs" but this is the one I find myself playing most often. The beauty of Bruggen and the Kuijken's playing has yet to be surpassed (bright and full of joy) and Gustav Leonhardt is, as always, masterful (and can be heard well, while in other conducter's recordings the harpsichord is rather faint). While the Pinnock recording is excellent in every detail (and ranks #2 in my choice of recordings), the Leonhardt recording remains the standard. In fact, this is the most listened to work of Bach that I own (I wore out the RCA cassettes of Leonhardt's Brandenburgs and had to buy the Seon disc). It surprises me that only one other person has recomended this disc!

Stevie Lee said:

This was the first version of the Brandenburg Concertos that I ever purchased. Initially, I felt the overall sound was underwhelming and thin, especially in regards to the stringed instruments. Thus, I ignored this recording for over a year. In the meantime, I explored other versions of the Concertos from both the traditional and period-instrument camps. I eventually revisited the Leonhardt recordings, and my appraisal of them has certainly changed.

Overall, the musicians take a relaxed approach to the score which allows for sensitive interpretation. There is an ambience of intimacy as if the listener is seated immediately in front of the musicians amongst a small audience. Of note, Leonhardt's take on the famous harpsichord cadenza in the Fifth Concerto is superlatively coherent and expansive, the best version I've heard.

Leonhardt's recording is my Brandenburg of choice among the period-instrument versions available (however, Rudolf Baumgartner's traditional, lush, majestic version is my overall favorite). Comparatively, Il Giardino Armonico's version has moments of excitement, but lacks an underlying drive especially in parts where the strings are less prominent. To my ears, Koopman/ABO's take sounds like a compromise in which the period instruments sound artificially rich. Pinnock's version is justifiably considered a standard choice though I prefer Leonhardt's less regimented style. To conclude on a practical note, Leonhardt's Brandenburgs are readily available from Sony at bargain prices.

*I have the Sony Essential Classics CD's 61814, 61815. I'm 99% certain that these contain the identical performances and sound production as the Seon packaged discs.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Hou Fang-Lin
  • Jordan Sayers
  • Stevie Lee
Date First Submitted:08/16/1997