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New or unfamiliar recordings of Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos are always eagerly anticipated with concomitant rewards and disappointments in varying measure. This recent version by Florilegium is richly rewarding and sits comfortably alongside those of the English Baroque Soloists and the Dunedin Consort to create a première league triumvirate. A consistent feature of Florilegium’s playing is a rhetorical emphasis that is especially apparent at the beginning of phrases, and which enhances their clear definition. This allows the players to pursue a more legato approach to the music than many of their period instrument competitors without threatening the clarity of the musical argument. Sometimes, as for instance in the otherwise exhilarating performance of the Third Concerto I longed for crisper articulation, but the ten solo strands are presented so lucidly and with such vitality that little reservations are soon forgotten.

The subtlety, ingenuity and pioneering manner in which Bach employs his colourful instrumental arsenal alternately as soloists and ripienists never ceases to be a source of wonder and gratification. At one moment he seems to be reacting to a ‘status quo’, at another challenging it but seldom, perhaps, accepting it. Florilegium revels in the diverse colours and textures of the music which are further enhanced by the many individual contributions. The horns are splendidly robust in the First Concerto without jeopardizing the delicate sound of the violin piccolo played with sensibility by Bojan Čičić who leads the ensemble throughout. In the Fifth Concerto the harpsichord with its extended first movement solo is played with eloquence and fluency by Terence Charlston while Ashley Solomon’s flute playing, above all in the Affetuoso is limpidly expressive and nowhere more so than in those magical bars 30–31. Tempos throughout are well- judged and ornaments applied with taste and restraint. Recorded sound is excellent and readers need not hesitate to place the discs at the top of their list of urgent requirements.

Nicholas Anderson Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing