The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: Amandine Beyer (violin/director) Gli Incogniti
Composer: Bach

If you flicked on any single movement on this CD you’d think, ‘this is nice’ – bouncy, accurate, fun Bach playing. Only when you move through the disc does it becomes apparent that that’s all you’re going to get. Amandine Beyer’s playing itself is most stylish in the modern way, and when she finds a singing line in the slow movements she knows what to do with it. She has chosen a chamber approach to both the instrumentation and engineering that puts her primus inter pares and allows us to follow every contrapuntal twist and turn. At least, that’s the theory. In practice, long-term harmonic goals in the monumental ritornello structures of the D minor and E major concertos are perilously obscured by local colour – cheeky phrasing, pointed staccato, headlong virtuosity and so forth. The three-chord launch pad of the E major is merely pecked at.

Towards the end of the D minor finale’s cadenza there are no notes as such, just a stream of fingers that must look far more impressive than it sounds. It sent me scurrying back wistfully to Joseph Szigeti’s transcription (the D minor and G minor works here are more commonly heard as keyboard concertos), and he was no sentimental old duffer himself. One more irritation: the clattery harpsichord continuo, which gilds the lily of the E major’s slow movement with unnecessary spread chords and the like. Not for me.  

Peter Quantrill