Bach Violin Concertos
First impressions suggest a high-energy, tightly accented approach, “period”-schooled while retaining an element of modern-instrument intensity, mostly in the slow movements. Daniel Hope sees to it that the bass-line is firm and prominent, which tends to underline the sense of urgency. The Double Concerto’s Largo focuses two well matched players responding to, rather than mirroring, each other, invariably with one using more vibrato than the other. Outer movements are fast and buoyant (the A minor’s gigue-allegro really whizzes along) and in the E major, Hope whirls into the first movement’s second idea like a dervish possessed. Embellishment is legion, both along the solo line and in the discreetly balanced but lavishly stated continuo. The results approximate, more than usual with this music, dance models of the day, yet Hope always allows the slower music to breathe.
Plenty of air around the notes in the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, too, the way the cellos unexpectedly come to the fore at 2'42", adding extra body to the overall texture. Again the spirit of the dance is all-pervasive, but come the solo harpsichord cadenza, although Kristian Bezuidenhout plays brilliantly (I like the way he accelerates his way back towards the tutti’s return, from 8'15"), I wasn’t sure about his intrusive bending of tempo. This sort of approach has become fairly popular: Rinaldo Alessandrini’s Award-nominated set of Brandenburgs for Naïve is similarly individualistic. In most other respects this is a refreshing, often enlightening programme, very well recorded.