Any recording of Bach's violin concertos should, to my mind, by turns make you want to dance and move you to tears, something that this new CD does in spades. The glorious Double Concerto abounds in sinuous, highly reactive playing from the two soloists and the orchestra. Tempos are perfectly chosen (never rushed in the faster movements, as some period-instrument groups are wont to do) and the melting slow movement is a sensual delight. Ornamentation, too, invariably sounds natural and spontaneous, very much growing out of Bach's lines rather than stuck-on like glitter. The sense of ensemble and soloists operating as one is hardly surprising, for the two solo violinists have long been the orchestra's artistic directors.
I defy you to resist the temptation to do a little jig in the finale
The highly virtuosic and symphonic-sounding Concerto in D major for Three Violins is the lesser-known sibling among the works here. This is probably in part due to the fact that it has, for the most part, come down to us only as a version for three harpischords (in C major), though there seems to be little doubt that it was originally intended for violins. Petra Müllejans and Gottfried von der Goltz are joined by Anne Katharina Schreiber, and hyper-reactivity and an infectious joyousness are again the order of the day.
In von der Goltz's hands the outer movements of the E major Concerto sparkle and shimmer while the Adagio centrepiece has a bright-eyed emotional directness. The same lack of sentimentality is very much to the fore in Müllejans's reading of the A minor Concerto’s Andante, the potency of Bach's writing allowed to speak for itself. And I defy you to resist the temptation to do a little jig (inwardly or otherwise) in the finale.
Whether you have a dozen recordings of these pieces or none, you shouldn't hesitate to add this one to your collection.
Artists: Petra Müllejans/Gottfried von der Goltz; Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
Former editor of BBC Music Magazine and International Record Review, Harriet Smith combines passions for music and the visual arts as a writer, editor and broadcaster. She is a regular contributor to Gramophone and Radio 3’s CD Review.