Saturday, April 20, 2013

In review--Bach's Violin

Freiburger Barockorchester
Von Der Goltz/Müllejans/Schreiber
J.S. Bach Violin Concertos
Harmonia Mundi

I find it ironic that during the Romantic Era J.S. Bach’s works fell out of favor because the musicians and music audiences of that time thought that Bach’s work lacked virtuosity (as mentioned in the liner notes of Violin Concertos).  I listen to the dazzling performances of Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins (BWV 1043), Violin Concerto (BWV 1042), Violin Concerto (BWV 1041) and Concerto for Three Violins (BWV 1064R) by Freiburger Barockorchester and I hear nothing but heroic virtuosity.  Certainly, any musician from contemporary times would agree at the complexity and difficulty of Bach’s musical architecture, but not only that, but the emotional palette that becomes necessary when performing any of Bach’s works.

The recording opens on a fiery yet playful note, Vivace of the Concerto for Two Violins featuring Petra Müllejans (Artistic Director for the Orchestra) and Gottfried von der Goltz on first violin.  The second movement, as the title suggests (Largo ma non tanto), slows the pace and journeys through melancholy.  The musicians take flight on the third movement which feels like delightful whirl across a ballroom floor.  The Violin Concerto (BWV 1042) sounds familiar to my ears and reminds me of the Brandenburg Concertos.  The harpsichord adds a lovely and regal touch on the second movement.  The Adagio movement delights as it twirls and swirls around me.

The “wow” response comes for me on the final movement of Violin Concerto (BWV 1041) with violin resembling a gypsy instrument and on the final concerto featuring three violins, with Anne Katharina Schreiber joining the other two leads.  I don’t know why Bach’s music lost appeal during his own life and up until contemporary times.  Did humanity need to evolve spiritually, emotionally and physically to grasps the complexities and subtleties of Bach’s music? Today, Bach’s music has the power to leave us breathless and in awe of its virtuosity.  Like a fine wine, the aging process has added body, flavor, and intoxication to Bach’s repertoire. And in the hands of today’s virtuosos listening to the violin concertos feels pleasurable.

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