The Strad Issue: January 2013
Description: New transcriptions hog the limelight in a disc of Bach violin concertos
Musicians: Viktoria Mullova (violin) Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone (director/harpsichord)
Composer: Bach, Bach (arr. Dantone)

The real interest here lies in the two transcriptions that accompany the E major and A minor violin concertos. Arranged by Ottavio Dantone for violin (BWV1053) and violin and harpsichord (BWV1060), these two works testify (as Dantone himself intimates) to Bach’s music transcending ‘sound and timbre’ and it is to Dantone’s credit that these works are so successful. In BWV1060, the varying colours of harpsichord and violin make for convincing imitation, and the glorious slow movement of BWV1053 has all the poignancy of the aria ‘Erbarme dich, mein Gott’ from the St Matthew Passion. Throughout, Mullova plays thoughtfully in a manner that falls easily within modern expectations of Baroque style, and the clarity of sound on this Onyx disc is admirable.

The tendency to play music of this period fast and with short articulation has become standard, of course – most of the time this works well, and the BWV1041 slow movement in particular moves along at a good pace. There is little here to court controversy, although the gap before the last chord of BWV1060 seems a bit staged, and the opening three chords of BWV1042 are short to the point of brusqueness. Overall, however, this is an excellent disc.

David Milsom