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The DG Karajan recordings of the Brandenburg Concertos, recorded in 1964, weren't accepted as legitimate even at the time of their original release (at least by some foul reviewers!). However, I have now lived long enough for the insight of these extraordinary performances to become apparent to me, and, yes, touch my very soul! ;-)
In music history, it's Mahler (possibly Tchaikovsky, in his Sixth Symphony) who is usually given credit for the innovation of ending many of his symphonies with these long, deeply-felt, magnificent adagios, which now affect audiences so strongly all over the world. But Karajan had the insight to realize that it was not Mahler or Tchaikovsky responsible for this innovation, but rather Bach! For in the last movement of the First Brandenburg Concerto (Menuetto, Trio 1, Polacca, Trio 2), which most conductors (or conductorless ensembles) dispense in about seven minutes, Karajan found the depth in this music to keep it going for an extraordinary 12:16! Of course, that's not quite on par with the 20+ minutes of Mahler's final adagios, but it does show that Bach was the original innovator in ending some of his works with this kind of long, slow, valedictory movement!
There are so many wonderful aspects to this set: the use of flutes in the Fourth Concerto, the richness of the multiple instruments to a part in the Third, cellos instead of gambas in the Sixth, the tinkling away of a harpsichord which really knows its place in the larger scheme of things (one report I've read indicates that it was Karajan himself playing, except in the Fifth). . . I could go on and on! Really, little else remains to be said, aside from noting the individual sound (such magnificent tone quality!) of the orchestra from that time - a unique sound which was already being lost under the Abbado regime and only accelerated under the Rattle regime. Just experiencing this kind of tone quality in itself is gratifying and rewarding! (Shout out to those oboes!)
As for double dotting in the Overtures of the Second and Third Orchestral Suites (also included in this set - I don't know how they fit it all onto two CD's at these tempos!), surely you jest!
I have this Telarc set with the very hip Boston Baroque.
The nice thing about the Brandenburgs is that while one has to own a set, it's not necessary to play it.
I was just discussing the Brandenburg Concertos with an astronomer coworker the other day and he brought up this reference to a quote from Mark Helprin's novel, "Winter's Tale", which I find to be quite interesting.
The quote is buried on page 450 of a 700 page novel. I just ordered the book which my friend says is a perennial favorite, even though he "doesn't know what it's about". The speaker is a somewhat mystical engineer who has been reincarnated several times and he's talking about the Brandenburgs.
Here we go...
"The 'Third' is the only one without wind instruments.
I never liked them in the other concerti, because they tend to
clutter things up. They remind me of a bunch of monks running
down a corridor, breaking wind. So many years in those
monasteries, all through the Dark Ages. It was horrible.
"Here it is. Listen!" he commanded. "This part. It sounds
like a good machine, a perfectly balanced rocker arm, something
well-oiled and precise. Notice the progressions, the hypnotic
repetitions. These are the tunnel rhythms, derived from the
same timed intervals which are the irreducible base for planetary
and galactic ratios of speed and distance, small particle
oscillations, the the heartbeat, tides, a pleasing curve,
and a good engine.
You cannot help but see such rhythms in
the proportions of every good painting, and hear them in the
language of the heart. They are what make us fond of
grandfather clocks, the surf, and well-proportioned gardens.
When you die, you know, you hear the insistent pounding that
defines all things, whether of matter or energy, since there
is nothing in the universe, really, but proportion. It sounds
somewhat like an engine that became available at the beginning
of the century, and was used in pumps and boats and that sort
of thing. I thought for sure that people would realize what
it was, but they didn't. What a shame. Nonetheless, there is
always music like this, which, in its way, comes just as close ---
as if the composer had actually been there, and returned."
Like the Third, the Sixth Brandenburg is also without wind instruments. ;-)
Thanks, Chris. I hadn't listened to all six in a few years and I had forgotten that. Good catch. I still like his "monks farting" metaphor, accurate or not.
I have not heard the Karajan Brandenburgs, but for those who enjoy them, I recommend the seldom mentioned Klemperer readings.
. . . those seem to have been reissued on CD only in Japan. So I'm assuming you're referring to vinyl? ;-)
EDIT: BTW, I suppose Klemperer could be one of the few conductors who might give Karajan a run for his money in the last movement of the First Brandenburg! ;-)
....were recently reissued here:
. . . for "Bach Brandenburg Concertos Klemperer". (However, the 1992 CD reissue DID show up, and I overlooked it.)
Yes, I meant Klemperer/Philharmonia and I do have them on vinyl. Ivan303's streaming reference must be the same performances.
I find them enjoyable.
Listening on QOBUZ as I type this.
Bach: Brandenburg Concertos
The Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer
Released on August 12, 2016 by The Golden Legacy of Music
HIPs in all music can bite me.
I subscribe to the idea and fundamental realization that every artist understood for centuries - until the post-nuclear/industrial/space age and its inevitable decline brought about it concomitant ideological perversions and distortions.
Specifically, artists always sought to seek and express the greater truth in music. THAT was the ultimate purpose of any artist's career. It was identified by various terms; during the 19th cent, until Schoenberg's break, it was called "beauty". Mahler said, "interesting is easy; beauty is hard".
Any artist of worth looked behind the printed score for the genius of music to be uncovered.
Now, instead, we have excercises in fantasy history being presented as musical truth.
I hate baroque music, but I'll be getting the Karajan. It might help me understand Bach - finally, after all of the screeching HIP's of the Brandenburg's made feel like going to a Thrash Metal concert.
Severius! Supremus Invictus
You certainly have a high opinion of yourself.
Sprinkled all through the cantatas, chorale settings, really everywhere, are these Bach movements that slow down eternity.
I think I enjoy the piano transcriptions the most because supremely talented pianists over the years, Rummel, Busoni, Godowsky, Isadore Philip, spotlight these passages and take full advantage of their startling beauty.
If I was forced to listen to only one composer, Bach.
The ten volume set on Hyperion is truly wonderful even while it is not complete.
"If people don't want to come, nothing will stop them" - Sol Hurok
I don't have that Plowright volume that you show however. There are also a couple of good Bach piano transcription recordings on the Naxos label - I especially enjoy this one:
ANgela Newitt's disc of Bach transcriptions is really good. I like it much better than her "regular" Bach.
I think she is a much more interesting musician AWAY from the Baroque period.
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,
And if you like Karajan, you really need to listen what I consider to be the ultimate in refined, elegant, precise, rich-toned, non-HIP Brandenburgs - the 1958 set of the late Jean-Francois Paillard (he does use a harpsichord, I'm afraid to say). You've already heard his work countless times, because it is Paillard's recording of the Pachelbel Canon that launched that work to the top of the classical charts.
No music I've heard is more adaptable and durable than Bach's. If it can withstand the synthesizers of Wendy Carlos, it can certainly work with Karajan and Paillard.
Spread over three LP's of course! ;-)
As we said before - the Munchinger version.
I always thought it was pretty dynamic and lively until I listened to it again recently and it seemed almost sluggish compared with modern HIP versions. Reinhard Goebel changed everything up the road in Koln.
for pre-HIP Brandenburgs, Paillard is the one for me. I put it ahead of Marriner/ASM and I Musici, both of which I also enjoy. Munchinger's St. Matthew Passion and Magnificat remain my favorites, though.
AFAIR, many of the famous French soloists on Paillard's Erato recording also appeared on the Scherchen Paris recording too!
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