Kennedy in Bach?! That's the last thing I expected him to play, but I was wrong. I also doubted whether he would suit Bach's music, but he does. He plays with freedom that almost borders on jazz improvisations, but he does not go overboard, as he often does (as in the Vivaldi Four Seasons, his best selling record). Another thing that I certainly didn't expect was that the orchestra playing with Kennedy was none other than the Berlin Philharmonic!!!!!!!! This again raised the question of compatibility:would the BPO like Kennedy's free-style style? It seems on this record that they love what he does, which is not your usual sort of Bach playing. This was a delightful disc to listen to. He fully immerses himself into the music, which can be heard from the start of the first track, the E major violin concerto. I was struck by what I heard. This was no romantic treatment of this much-loved piece, but it wasn't that authentic in approach either. It was simple music making, without any soloistic egoism shown in the playing of this enfant terribile of music. He makes the music flow without any residual heaviness. The violin is well placed, sharing the spotlight with the orchestra, unlike many recordings where the soloist is too close or too far away to be heard properly. In my opinion, his musicality is similar to that of Jacqueline du Pre's (also English). They share in common an uninhibited sense of joy in what they do musically, and this record is a great example of what he can do, without any excess. Kennedy's tone, which can sound harsh, sounds perfectly round for this kind of music. He used to make harsh sounds for effect in the Four Seasons, but he refrains from doing so this time. Apart from the E major concerto, the other solo violin concderto to be featured is the one in a minor. Here the tempi can be a litle fast, especially in the last movement, which is too fast for my taste, but the BPO seems undaunted by it (after all, this is the Berlin Philharmonic which can play anything well!) The Double concertos are played with great aplomb. It is simply electric - especially in the Two-Violin Concerto, where the two solists hit it together in an incredibly way, and the orchestra responds to the energy as well - and the soloists (other than Kennedy) are superb. They have a wonderful sense of style, but they are flexible enough to communicate with Kennedy. Overall, a fine disc of great music making, almost chamber-like in quality, the soloist/s talking to the orchestra and vice versa. The packaging is very lavish, with very glossy paper reserved for special edition releases (for example on the recent Maria Callas 2-CD compilation "Popular Music from TV, Commercials...".)by EMI. Interestingly, this was recorded in analogue mode (ADD), which surprised me a little, but I then realised that his recordings have been ADD, from his second recording of the Elgar violin concerto (with Sir Simon Rattle). The recording has the 1970s warmth to it, which was the chracteristic of the Berlin Phil's recordings of that era (and incidentally it was recorded in the Jesus-Christus-Kirche, where most Berlin Phil recordings were made until 1975).
Enjoy this disc, if you feel like some simple music making to soothe and excite your ears.