Dunedin Consort - J.S. Bach: Violin Concertos - McAlister Matheson Music

From time to time, along comes a recording that that uplifts the soul in a way that few others do. In 2015, David Watkin's Bach Cello Suites attained this pinnacle. Now, a year later, we have the Dunedin Consort performing the same miracles with Bach's violin concertos.

As a starter course the disc presents the Concerto for violin and oboe in C minor BV1060R, originally surviving as a concerto for two harpsichords but since the nineteenth century assumed to be originally for violin and oboe. Here Cecilia Bernardini, leader of the Dunedin Consort, shares the honours with her Baroque oboist father Alfredo, their expressive give and take in the lyrical second movement a joy to hear, the spectacular third movement effervescing with life.

The first movement of the E major Violin Concerto can tend towards the solid in less perceptive hands, but these musicians are anything but earthbound, despite well-anchored tempi . The small number of players undoubtedly helps (four ripieno violins plus single viola, cello, violone and John Butt directing from the harpsichord). Bernardini's solo lines shine clearly and effortlessly through the textures, her ornamentation sublimely unfussy. The heartfelt slow movement gives way to a final rondo where Bernardini relishes the ever-increasing virtuosity of the solo part.

Bernardini père takes centre stage again in the short but eloquent sinfonia with solo oboe fromCantata 21. A refined but buoyant account of the A minor Violin Concerto follows. Its slow movement is especially touching; Butt rightly refers to the use of the ostinato principle here creating ‘something of a mesmerising effect ... the movement is perhaps more of a ‘state' than a sequence of events'.

If the solo concertos are the main course, the Double Concerto forms a wholesome dessert, with Huw Daniel stepping up to duet with Cecilia Bernardini in beguiling fashion. The tenderness of the central movement is heart-stopping, the drama of the closing Allegro dazzling. This is music-making of the highest order, vividly captured by Linn's sound engineers. Bravo, Maestro Butt!

McAlister Matheson Music