Dunedin Consort - J.S. Bach: Violin Concertos - Gramophone

This new disc of Bach concertos has attributes we have come to expect from the Dunedin Consort and Linn, namely neat, stylish and uncomplicated performances in a recording of beautifully judged clarity and resonance. As in this group's Brandenburg Concertos set of three years ago (A/13), the playing is relaxed in tempo and temper, and free of mannerism (though wisps of ornamentation are allowed here and there). The orchestra is a small one of six violins and one of everything else, slightly backgrounded in the recording but under John Butt's everinsightful direction an alert and supportive presence to the soloists nevertheless.

And the soloists are good, headed by the Dunedins' leader Cecilia Bernardini, who shows that these familiar pieces still have plenty to say if you just play them with the right balance of technique, tone and musicality; in slow movements she is affecting without one being able to say quite how she has achieved it, which is surely a valuable quality. She is well matched, too, in the Double Concerto by Huw Daniel, and together they work up an appropriate head of steam in the finale. But I'm sure these two gifted young violinists won't mind too much if I say that the attention is taken rather by the oboe-playing of Cecilia's father Alfredo, who, whether in the faster music of BWV1060 or the aching held notes of the Sinfonia to Cantata No 21, displays a languid lyricism so unfussy and unhurried that it almost seems as if the oboe is playing itself - except that only a real human soul could draw from it the stab of pain that is his first note in the Sinfonia. It makes him a perfect 'guest artist' for this ensemble. Those who desire readings of similar caste but more overt interpretative intervention may prefer Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque, but there is plenty to enjoy from the Dunedins, who show here that a light interpretative touch does not have to be a casual one.

Gramophone