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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britten, Bach, Beautiful
This set of the Brandenburgs are wonderful.
The ECO is a polished ensemble, and while I don't understand all the fuss about modern vs. period instruments (music is music, and can be well--or poorly--performed on either flavor), the playing is fine indeed, and the soloists are outstanding.
Britten's musical talents were so manifold--here he conducts Bach w/...
Published on March 23 2001 by Gregory M. Zinkl

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rather dull and boring
Out of all the recordings of the Brandenburgs available, I can not fathom any reason to buy this set. It is the most boring recording I own of these works. I can't give it only one star because it is Bach's music, which can never be completely ruined by a poor conductor, so I'll grudgingly give it two stars.
If, for some odd reason, you really want a modern...
Published on March 16 2004 by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rather dull and boring, March 16 2004
This review is from: Brandenburg Concertos Complete (Audio CD)
Out of all the recordings of the Brandenburgs available, I can not fathom any reason to buy this set. It is the most boring recording I own of these works. I can't give it only one star because it is Bach's music, which can never be completely ruined by a poor conductor, so I'll grudgingly give it two stars.
If, for some odd reason, you really want a modern instrument recording, there are better choices out there (any of the Marriner dics on Phillips are better). To appreciate this music, though, I recommend a period instrument (aka PI) recording such as the Trevor Pinnock or Gustav Leonhardt recordings. Modern instruments do NOT reflect the sound-world that Bach intended.

In short, I have tried repeatedly to listen to this Britton set, but each time I end up turning it off thinking "I paid money for this?" and putting on ANY other conductor's interpretation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britten, Bach, Beautiful, March 23 2001
By 
Gregory M. Zinkl (Chicago, IL) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Brandenburg Concertos Complete (Audio CD)
This set of the Brandenburgs are wonderful.
The ECO is a polished ensemble, and while I don't understand all the fuss about modern vs. period instruments (music is music, and can be well--or poorly--performed on either flavor), the playing is fine indeed, and the soloists are outstanding.
Britten's musical talents were so manifold--here he conducts Bach w/ unerring tempi, orchestral balances, and love for the music. The other Britten Bach I know, the St. John Passion, while not perfect (the diction by the singers could have been much improved, but hey, that seems to be the state for a lot of performances), reveals that the incredible success of this set was no fluke.
The history of Britten with the ECO is interesting, too, and it's great to have history preserved, w/ excellent performances, that reveal the genius of two greats: Bach and Britten.
The engineering isn't perfect: you certainly won't get digital clarity. While I prefer a more spacious sound, the engineering is warm. It should not disappoint.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not "authentic," but still one of the best, June 15 2000
This review is from: Brandenburg Concertos Complete (Audio CD)
I'll say it right now: THIS RECORDING IS PERFORMED WITH MODERN INSTRUMENTS. You have been warned. Don't buy it if you strongly believe that all Baroque music must be played on Baroque-period instruments.
With that said, this is still a very enjoyable rendition of Bach's greatest orchestral works. The small ensemble size makes for a crisp, intimate recording -- almost like having a personal orchestra in your very own home. That's right, these formerly-analog recordings are surprisingly clear and realistic. The performance itself is also top-notch; Britten understands the Baroque style very well and carefully avoids over-romanticizing. At the same time, he makes sure never to become mechanical in the interpretation. Bach's music is notorious for being mathematically precise, but why shouldn't we put some feeling into the musical equation? Everyone sounds like they're having a rollicking good time on the recording, and you will too after absorbing yourself in the music.
Speaking of rollicking good times, the soloists go all out on this recording to show off their skills. The unforgettable harpsichord solo in the 5th concerto is as good as any I've ever heard, the violin work in the 4th is absolutely smokin', and I'm sure there's a lot of other great solos that I can't remember right now.
The two extra concertos on the second disc (the one for violin/oboe and the other for flute) are a very pleasant surprise -- you may even find them more enjoyable than the Brandenburgs.
I would have given this recording 5 stars, but it loses one for not being on period instruments. However, it's still great value for money and an excellent introduction to the music of Bach!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, Dec 8 1999
By 
F. Haji (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brandenburg Concertos Complete (Audio CD)
Frankly I was surprised when I listened to this set. I was expecting a heavy, romantic, modern instrument version of the Brandenburgs. However, Britten's Brandenburgs are very baroque and stylishly played.
The fast movements have a lot zest...without excessively fast tempos. The slow movements are warm and expressive. There are no surprises here...nor are there any disappointments...just very skilled music making from the ECO.
The recorded sound is excellent! I have said this before, but some of these older analogue recordings have a warmth about them that modern digital recordings lack.
A great set, and given the price an bargain too!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Bach, July 1 2004
By 
A music fan (Cincinnati, OH United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brandenburg Concertos Complete (Audio CD)
Benjamin Britten and the English Chamber Orchestra do an excellent job of bringing out the "baroqueness" or the brandenburg concertos. I especially enjoyed the 6th concerto (what viola player wouldn't?), but I thought the 1st movement was a little slow, and a bit too legatoish, but i loved it none the less. The 3rd con. was also nice (3 viola parts- yeah!). I also liked the bonus flute and violin/oboe concertos. The flute concerto (origianally a harpsichord concerto and then a violin concerto) does have some shloops in the 1st and 3rd movements, in which case i prefer it being preformed on violin.
Overall, an outstanding recording that i highly recommend!!!!!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good modern recording, June 14 2004
By 
"b_dyoung" (Minneapolis, MN USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brandenburg Concertos Complete (Audio CD)
Some would say this recording isn't authentic because it uses modern instruments rather than period instruments. However, the English Chamber Orchestra is a wonderful ensemble, and Britten shows a real understanding for Bach's music. They create a very good Baroque sound with their modern instruments.
There are some movements (mvt 1 of concerto 1, mvt 2 of concerto 3, for example) that sound a bit heavy, either because of tempo or the intrumentation. They don't have the light, lively sound I think Bach intended.
Though there are better recordings of the Brandenburgs, this is an excellent collection for someone who wants to save a little money.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fine set of Brandenburgs, Aug. 31 2001
By 
A reader (Santa Cruz, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brandenburg Concertos Complete (Audio CD)
In college I grew up with the Ristenpart / Chamber Orchestra of the Saar recordings of the Brandenburgs (on Nonesuch, LP only; the CD version on Accord is tricky to find). This set is rather like those recordings in spirit, but to my surprise, after much back and forth comparison, I think I like this version even better. Both have a warmth and a vitality; neither is afraid to feel some emotion. But I prefer the recording quality of the Britten version, and the intonation of the horns in particular seems better in this recording. The oboe/horn duet in the last movement of the 1st concerto is downright jolly, almost humorous (I don't know whether it's supposed to be, and I don't care; I just like it).
I also compared this to a recent recording with original instruments, and while I like the idea of using the old instruments, I just don't like the harsh, scratchy violins and out-of-tune horns.
The Britten recordings of the Brandenburgs are also available on Penguin; while the Douglas Adams essays are enjoyable, the 2 CD set on London is cheaper, and I much prefer the London set's two bonus concertos (conducted by Neville Marriner) to the violin concerto on the second Penguin CD. These two concertos are conjectural reconstructions from a harpsichord concerto of earlier works that no longer exist. I find them a colorful match for the Brandenburgs.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fine set of Brandenburgs, Aug. 31 2001
By 
A reader (Santa Cruz, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brandenburg Concertos Complete (Audio CD)
In college I grew up with the Ristenpart / Chamber Orchestra of the Saar recordings of the Brandenburgs (on Nonesuch, LP only; the CD version on Accord is tricky to find). This set is rather like those recordings in spirit, but to my surprise, after much back and forth comparison, I think I like this version even better. Both have a warmth and a vitality; neither is afraid to feel some emotion. But I prefer the recording quality of the Britten version, and the intonation of the horns in particular seems better in this recording. The oboe/horn duet in the last movement of the 1st concerto is downright jolly, almost humorous (I don't know whether it's supposed to be, and I don't care; I just like it).
I also compared this to a recent recording with original instruments, and while I like the idea of using the old instruments, I just don't like the harsh, scratchy violins and out-of-tune horns.
The Britten recordings of the Brandenburgs are also available on Penguin; while the Douglas Adams essays are enjoyable, the 2 CD set on London is cheaper, and I much prefer the London set's two bonus concertos (conducted by Neville Marriner) to the violin concerto on the second Penguin CD. These two concertos are conjectural reconstructions from a harpsichord concerto of earlier works that no longer exist. I find them a colorful match for the Brandenburgs.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fine Performance on Modern Instruments, Feb. 1 2001
This review is from: Brandenburg Concertos Complete (Audio CD)
If recorders, natural trumpets, etc., are important to you in performances of Bach's music, stay away from this performance. If, however, you like transcriptions, Bach played on the piano, etc., I can whole-heartedly recommend this recording.
The performances here use flutes, trumpets with pistons, etc. I expect that the violins have the longer necks that have been in use since the nineteenth century, and that many other canons of authentic baroque performance are violated. These are not, however, the lushc, romantic performances common in the 1960s. The tempi are slower than typically used today, but not much. The performing group is relatively small. The violinists employ vibrato sparingly.
Most important, Britten conducts with a great understanding of and love for the music, and the musicians play wonderfully.
And, of course, the set is a bargain.
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1.0 out of 5 stars awful. shoddy remastering, poorly-chosen tempos..., Sept. 5 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Brandenburg Concertos Complete (Audio CD)
My purchase of this recording of the Brandenburgs was based on a glowing review in a CD-rating book, a competitor to the venerable Penguin Guide. Of the many recordings of this work, it said, this version by Britten and crew stood head and shoulders above a legion of worthy competitors. The reviewer clearly was not reviewing the CD I had the misfortune to buy and take home.
Things begin rather badly. The tempo of the first movement of the first concerto is much too slow, and not in a measured, stately way, but in a halting, hesitant, uncertain sort of lurch. Violins are screechy, the harpsichord plinks like a gnat in the sonic foreground, the horns blat... the engineer responsible for the remastering attached great importance to maintaining a clear separation of instruments. He or she did his or her job all too well. There is no cohesion to the music; the instruments head off in different directions like jazz musicians in an extended improv.
Alright, this must be the exception in an otherwise outstanding CD, I thought. The second concerto, then... it's simply not possible to mess up the second concerto... is it? Yes. It is possible. Again the horns blat, on a reasonably high-quality car stereo and then more insistently through high-quality studio headphones. And the violins are even screechier. Are these violins or cat-gutted hunks of driftwood?
I couldn't get beyond the second concerto. Too painful. Relief came from a lovely RCA recording of the Second, a performance from James Levine at the 1978 Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois. And this miserable CD will be returned for a refund.
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