© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Classical 101

Brandenburgs I Have Known

Ah . . . the Brandenburg Concertos, those six wonders of the musical world. Is it right to consider them man-made wonders, coming as they do from the inspired mind of the great J.S. Bach? However we view them, the Brandenburgs top any list of great musical works. No doubt that's why they've been recorded over and over and over again: each recording reveals new layers and dimensions of Bach's infinitely mystical masterpieces. So when a recent re-release of Apollo's Fire's 2000 recording of the Brandenburgs crossed my desk, I took the opportunity to revisit some of the landmark recordings of these great works. I found many pleasing, surprising and astonishing treasures in these recordings, but mostly I found an opportunity to couch my ears in Bach for an afternoon. Nice work, if you can get it. Usually when I pull out the Brandenburgs, I head straight for the fifth concerto, the one with the phenomenal harpsichord cadenza in its first movement. Though setting aside the question of which of the six Brandenburg Concertos is the "best," (after all, can perfection in one sense be better than perfection in any other?), the Fifth Brandenburg claims the laurels as my favorite. REWORD The other day I got stuck in the Brandenburg Five playback loop, emerging jut now (and hopefully only long enough) to write this blog post. Even just the first two minutes, which Bach begins in such an ebulliently happy D major only to add such gently painful chromatic beauty as the piece moves along, leave me speechless. Then, just as we think the movement is coming to an end, Bach whips out that phenomenal harpsichord cadenza. In a phenomenal fluttering of its wings, the instrument once hogtied to harmonic rhythm takes flight, leaving the orchestra in a vapor trail of untold virtuosity. REWRITE THIS WHOLE GRAPH - MAKES NO SENSE AS IS But I digress. Berlin Philharmonic/Karajan Don't run away so soon.  Yes, the interest in Baroque performance practice has yielded any number of recordings of these works by