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Johan Sebastian Bach
The Six Brandenburg Concertos
Richard Egarr, harpsichord and leading the Academy of Ancient Music

Review By Wayne Donnelly
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  I was a bit surprised to hear about this set. Egarr is one of the leading lights off Harmonia Mundi's stable of artists, and I have long admired him as a harpsichordist. He has contributed to many recordings as both soloist and continuo player, especially in his frequent collaborations with baroque violinist and conductor Andrew Manze. I would have expected Manze to conduct a new set of Brandenburgs from this label, but as it turns out, Egarr seizes the occasion to showcase most admirably both his keyboard and conductoreal chops.

One might think of this as a "purest of the pure" approach. Rather than the more typical period-instrument chamber orchestra, this ensemble here uses one player per part. That scale has benefits in the extreme transparency of the presentation as well as allowing Egarr's highly imaginative continuo to be savored fully.

And, of course, in the Fifth Concerto, Egarr's playing is spectacular, as engaging as any I have heard. Both this and the other most popular Brandenburg, the Second with its dazzling trumpet solo, would make great demo tracks for evaluating a system. But, for that matter, all of these concertos are splendidly performed. The recorded sound here is outstanding, certainly up to Harmonia Mundi's typical very high standard. Even if you have other good performances of this glorious music, you won't go wrong adding this set to your collection. It goes right to my top shelf.

 

 

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