JS Bach / Mozart – Two Violin Concertos

More Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) 

More Two Violin Concertos 

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This original plum label Victrola pressing from 1965 has SUPERB sound on both sides. The Bach piece is a rich tapestry of strings spread across the stage and clearly separated left to right. There’s not much depth but that seems of little consequence; all the instruments are heard in their proper space and location. The tonality is right on the money throughout.

The Mozart concerto starts out sounding a bit opaque, but about an inch or so into the side it opens up wonderfully, with sweet, spacious, natural sound from there on out. Jaime Laredo plays both works superbly, and the Living Stereo quality sound brings his playing to life in a way that few recordings can.

Although never released as a real LSC, this Victrola pressing is every bit the equal of most of the better Living Stereo pressings.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Bach – Concerto No. 1

Side Two

Mozart – Concerto No. 3

Bach

The court of young Prince Leopold at Cöthen was the penultimate step on Bach’s professional ascent from organist at Arnstadt, in 1703, to Kantor at Leipzig, from 1723 to the end of his life. He had been Konzertmeister at Weimar (1708-1717) before his appointment as Kapellmeister at Cöthen, where he remained for six years. He wrote much instrumental (rather than liturgical) music in this secular position, although most of it has been lost. Among the survivors were the Brandenburg Concertos and three other concertos for one or more solo violins with string and continuo accompaniment: the A minor and E major concertos for his concertmaster at Cöthen, Joseph Spiess, and the D minor Concerto for Two Violins.

Formally, he cast all but Brandenburg No. 3 in three movements—quick, slow, quick—modeled on the Italian Baroque concertos of Vivaldi. Bach’s genius was the ability to individualize as well as transcend the style of that older and admired contemporary who was indirectly his mentor. In the Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, BWV 1041, as in the other two violin concertos, the central movement is an aria without words—lyrical, expressively warm, ever gentle, yet inescapably melancholic in case of the A minor, perhaps the most inherently somber key in the tonal lexicon. On either side, an implicit although unmarked Allegro leads off in 2/4 time, with ritornello structure. As usual in Bach’s concertos, the soloist’s relationship with the full-ensemble passages hangs in a fascinating balance between competition and cooperation. A jig concludes in 3/8 time, marked Allegro assai and foreshadowing the rondos that Haydn and Mozart developed after Bach’s death.