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The Six Brandenburg Concertos of J.S. Bach are easily among his most commonly performed and instantly recognizable compositions. As such, they have been recorded countless times by everything from modern, full-sized orchestras to Baroque period ensembles and everything in between. While there are some heavy hitters in this latter category, there are still other small, period-instrument ensembles that provide worthwhile performances without gaining their fair share of the limelight. Such is the case with the Dutch ensemble Musica Amphion, founded and led by Pieter-Jan Belder. This Brilliant Classics disc featuring the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Brandenburg Concertos has been reissued many times and with good reason. Musica Amphion's performances are nicely refined, historically informed, and technically proficient. Belder's tempo selection tends toward the conservative end of the spectrum, especially when compared to the brisk pace popularized by the likes of Giuliano Carmignola, but still maintains a nice sense of energy and drive.

The integrity in the playing and attention to details in the score make this disc worth checking out.

Bach’s six concertos dedicated to the Margrave of Brandenburg were completed in 1721. They are supreme examples of the concerto grosso form, though in some of them the solo instrument takes the spotlight to turn the work in to a fully developed concerto. No.2 is a trumpet concerto, and the Fourth a concerto for violin with two recorders. In the large-scale Fifth concerto, Bach produced in effect a full-blown keyboard concerto, with a huge first movement cadenza of 65 bars. Given the complexity of the solo part, it is likely that Bach himself played the harpsichord at the performances for the Prince in Berlin where he had purchased a magnificent new instrument. The Sixth concerto reverts to the concerto grosso form, but with unusual scoring – there are no violins. This gives the work a dark, warm tone with the violas dominating the wonderful slow movement.

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  • Seller location: Lower Hutt City, Wellington, NZ

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