The Brandenburg Concertos, Selected Works


180g Vinyl LP Limited edition of 500, numbered by hand, hard-cover

 

The Brandenburg Concertos by Bach count among his most well-known works, composed before 1721. At that time when he did not know about his subsequent engagement as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. This year – or maybe even earlier? – Bach fell in love with the young Anna Magdalena. All doors seemed to be open for the 36 year old Bach, who have had great plans. He was full of energy and has had a real zest for life.

This LP opens beautifully effervescent with the first Allegro from the VI. Concerto, followed by the Andante — which could be seen as an imagination and a homage to Vivaldi’s lagoon city Venice — and after that sounds the almost excessive Presto of the IV. Concerto. The side A ends with the celebratory closing Allegro, again from the VI. Concerto. The B-side starts with the brilliant compositions of the Allegro from the II. Concerto. The Adagio from the I. Concerto gives a miraculous rest. Then follows — between wild dance and sensual rapture – the Allegro from the III. Concerto.  Contemplative calm brings the Affetuoso from the V. Concerto, and the album ends with the vigorous Allegro from the same Concerto.
Bach probably didn't expect that his life will end in Leipzig, however it was him granted not to find a career like George Friedrich Handel.
The album breaks all previous limits. The selection is sassy, fun, extremely distinct and hopefully not too crazy. Also the recording procedure is unusual: no overdubs, no complex editing procedure, no use of a multi-microphone system. Pure music recorded live-to-two-track analog tape. Even the so difficult to control Baroque trumpet, played by Markus Wuersch, symbolises radiance and beauty, like never heard bevor. This analog recording is available as 180g LP vinyl in a hand-numbered and limited edition of a total amount of 500 units.
Without conductor the baroque ensemble Die Freitagsakademie plays the Brandenburg Concertos. The individual voices act jointly together with highest concentration and precision. An instrument presents a theme, another player takes this theme, develops it further and gives it to another musician. The voices of the instruments discuss and perform with each other and create dialogues. Concerts arise in the truest sense of the word and over and over again fugue-like euphoric sound cascades dive into the space. Sometimes the music resembles one of Vivaldi's compositions or French court music, nonetheless the whole piece originates unmistakably from one hand and turns out completely rounded. Bach gives us an exciting series of concerts consisting of six parts, which he composes at different times but combines as a whole in Cöthen. Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen advises him to dedicate the work to Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt, uncle of the Prussian King.
In the last fifty years the historical performance practice has changed. Harnoncourt and his ensemble Concentus Musicus Wien lead the change. He makes history. Il Giardino Armonico and others follow. Barriers get broken down, borders disappear, the doors and gates open up. This development gives the young generation of musicians the freedom to take Baroque music out of the museum and to blow the dust of hundreds of years away. Die Freitagsakademie, based in Switzerland, belongs to the young generation, who translates the old scores with sovereignity into their own new music. The respect for the work, the composer and the knowledge, that music, time and society are inextricably linked, are most important. Nevertheless, in the present time the translation of the score into sounds cannot be leaded by the attempt to imitate the performance style of Bach, Vivaldi or Lully and their contemporaries, but to risk new interpretations. The Freitagsakademie plays Bach's Brandenburg Concertos lively, young and fresh. No movement feels rushed or too fast, the work has a fine tempo. Every rhythm has a natural pulse, every note has its significance, every bar has a proper breathing. The voices of the very different sounding instruments develop their characteristic colours. The scores bloom and Bach's happy years in Cöthen can be experienced. Die Freitagsakademie translates the word »concerto« (disputation) into the original meaning. The music of Die Freitagsakademie is a true joy, this special ensemble enables the listeners to experience the well-known composition in a new way.
The Freitagsakademie does not use digital multi-track technique. The natural ambient is recorded by two omnidirectional microphones direct live-to-analog-two-track. These omnidirectional microphones generate a quite simply unaltered musical sound. The real development of the sound waves are recorded without any limitation, that is the reason why every instrument keeps its authentic sound and location. Harpsichord, baroque trumpet, alto recorder, oboe, cello and piccolo violin keep their spectrum of sounds and power. Special attention is given to the high-fidelity sound by using the analogue technology, but working without digital recording equipment has also another advantage, the manipulation with thousands of digital edits is made impossible. The moment of the recording moves into the foreground. Like an author or composer who writes with a fountain pen and not with a computer program, the ensemble Die Freitagsakademie does it without the possibility of digital exchangeability. The music is created in the exhilaration and moments of highest concentration, like an outstanding concert under best conditions at a special place created for music.

This album is my favourite selection of parts from Bach's Six Concerts Avec plusieurs instruments, the so-called Brandenburg Concertos. Each concert has a different instrumentation and this selection offers the richness of the colors of sounds and rhythms.

 

- Stefan Winter


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