Kennedy plays Bach

0 of 5 stars

Concertos for violin – in A minor (BWV 1041)& E (BWV1042)Concerto for two violins in D minor (BWV 1043)Concerto for oboe and violin in D minor (BWV 1060)

Kennedy and Daniel Stabrawa (violins)Albrecht Mayer (oboe)with members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: December 2000
CD No: EMI CDC 5 57091 2
Duration: 58’ 55"

I’m in two minds about this CD. The first listen found me enthusiastic, admiring of Kennedy’s musicianship, invigorated by the up-tempo fast movements and moved by the sensitive handling of the slow ones. A second spin was rather different – I thought the recording too reverberant and the musicians’ sound penetrating and unlovely; also those fast movements were now too quick, too emphatic (aggressive even) and predictable, though the liquid centres of the slow movements were still affecting.

There’s much to admire in Kennedy’s technique and in his spirit – this music really lifts of the page to rejuvenate and console – and a ‘period’ awareness hovers over proceedings as the old meets the new. Baroque music Berlin style has all the attributes of musical eloquence sympathetic to Bach’s expression but in the modern clothing of a sleek modern band, Kennedy first among equals and making Bach relevant – a process of sincere interpretation, sharing with colleagues and reaching out to listeners.

I doubt though I shall return as often to Kennedy’s CD – and really then for the confidential and unaffected slow movements – as I will to Isaac Stern for something gloriously ‘old-fashioned’ (Sony SMK 66471, identical in contents, 10 minutes longer). Then there’s Mullova (Philips 446 675-2; BWV 1043 replaced by 1059) who is as ‘authentic’ as Kennedy but more varied and intimate in realising the concertos’ song and dance.

Reservations aside, Kennedy is no doubt the man to persuade reluctant listeners just how vital and moving Bach’s music is. If this CD becomes a best seller I won’t be surprised; if Bach’s music has a whole new audience because of Kennedy’s pulling-power then that’ll be great – musically there’s nothing dull here and much that speaks directly from and to the heart.

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