My only qualm with this lavishly presented set is the short playing time that clocks in at just over a hundred minutes.
The first disc begins with a rarely heard Overture BWV119a in C Major, a short seven minute work that is beautifully played by Nova Stravaganza although this is not Bach at his brilliant best. The first two suites include some retouchings and score changes that are expertly exploited by Rampe and his top-notch players. Here there are quieter string and wind based scorings that culminate in the famous 'Badinerie' in which the solo flautist plays with unalloyed excellence on all counts.
The second disc includes the more pompous and celebratory Third and Fourth Suites which are rather similar to the sort of suites being written by Telemann in the contemporary period. The performances are straightforward and finely shaped although I do feel that the more exalted company of Gardiner, Ansermet and Richter do plumb greater depths of emotion and musicality.
The various changes in all the works are well documented by Siegbert Rampe who shows his scholarly intensity in such subjects. It would be interesting if the group would now turn its hand to other similar works by Bach including the Brandenburg Concertos and other solo concerti. If you already have the Suites in other versions however, you may rest assured that these much daunted retouchings do not cause any serious changes to the music as we know it.
Copyright © 2002, Gerald Fenech