J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Brandenburg Concertos

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Karl Richter
Accompaniment/Orchestra:and his chamber orchestra
Soloists:none listed
Instrumentation:Cello
Flute
Harpsichord
Horn
Oboe
Orchestra
Trumpet
Viola
Violin
Individual Works:Concerto No. 1 in F major, BWV 1046
Concerto No. 2 in F major, BWV 1047
Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048
Concerto No. 4 in G major, BWV 1049
Concerto No. 5 in D major, BWV 1050
Concerto No. 6 in B-flat major, BWV 1051

This recording is part of the "Karl Richter Edition" issued by Teldec.

Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Teldec
Catalog Number:4509-97903-2
Year Released/Recorded:Released 1995 / Recorded 1958
Total Playing Time:
cd1: 56'34"
cd2: 49'42"
Comments:This is another in my series of reviews, "Which Brandenburg?"
Performance: Good but some problems
Recording: Muddy

First of all, this recording appears to be in mono. There is no indication on the packaging but the sound is coming out of the centre of my speakers. It sounds ok, but I would have liked to know the recording was mono before I bought it. Maybe it is stereo but it sounds like mono to me.

My first impression was, "This is out of tune!" The chorus effect of the strings sounds slightly out of tune to me, as do the horns. Perhaps my ears adjusted to it (not likely) or the orchestra tighted up its tuning as it played because after a few minutes it sounds fine. However, the intonation of the violin solos later on is a little off.

I wanted to hear this recording because of all the email I get praising Karl Richter. In the 1950's and 1960's he was regarded as an international authority on the interpretation of Baroque music. I can understand how this was the case, his interpretation is excellent. Some of the phrasing in the solo melodies is a little different in places but not at all bad. The tempos and dynamics are excellent. While listening to this recording I realised that he did not have a zillion digital interpretations of these concertos to measure himself against as conductors have now. He had to know what he was doing, which is something I admire and recognise the value of in the era in which he was recording. I would think that his interpretations set the pace for many of our conductors/musicians today, which is one of the reasons he is so admired.

This recording is part of the "Karl Richter Edition" released by Teldec. Although I like the pleasant package design I must criticise the lack of information included in the booklet. No soloists are listed, although the recording is so old that information may not be available. The bio of Richter is only one page and I would have like to know more. The booklet includes the usual description of each concerto with a few tidbits about Richter but each is far too short. I would have liked more tidbits; I enjoy knowing he was fond of Concerto No. 6 in spite of its not being a hit with the audiences. I think skimping on the booklet is an insult to the music buying public. Yes, I buy cd's for the music but I also never get tired of learning about the music and musicians I'm listening to.

The performance is very energetic but it never becomes uncomfortably frenetic and it is never wimpy. It really moves along nicely. As I said before, the instruments sound slight out of tune from time to time, especially the brass and violin solos. If it is Richter playing the harpsichord his performance is impressive, although the recording compresses the harpsichord into a sort of blurred, tinny sound that I can't help wishing I could hear better. In the harpsichord solo of Concerto No. 5 he's doing something odd in the left hand, playing octaves and striking the chords in a more staccato way than is usual. It's interesting, I've never heard that particular solo played this way and I like it. But the bad recording makes it hard to hear. If this recording really is mono I can see why stereo caught on. Everything being crunched into the centre really does obscure the individual lines. Sometimes I was waiting to hear a favourite melody but found it buried in the mix. My last complaint is that the concertos are not in numeric order on the cd's. Disc 1 has Concertos 1, 2, 5 and Disc 2 has Concertos 3, 4, 6. I know it's silly but I hate when they do that.

Overall I would not recommend this recording to a Brandenburg newbie. It's for admirers of Richter, for the experienced listener who already has some treasured versions in their Brandenburg collection, and for those interested in exploring historic recordings.

Acknowledgements:From the collection of Jan Hanford.
Date First Submitted:01/18/1997