The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at Alice Tully Hall – Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos

The Brandenburg Concertos
No.1 in F, BWV1046
No.3 in G, BWV1048
No.5 in D, BWV1050
No.2 in F, BWV1047
No.6 in B-flat, BWV1051
No.4 in G, BWV1049

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center [Kenneth Weiss (harpsichord), Sean Lee, Alexander Sitkovetsky & Arnaud Sussmann (violins), Daniel Phillips (violin & viola), Che-yen Chen & Yura Lee (viola), Dmitri Atapine, Timothy Eddy & Inbal Segev (cellos), Joseph Conyers (double bass), Tara Helen O’Connor & Ransom Wilson (flutes), Randall Ellis, James Austin Smith & Stephen Taylor (oboes), Marc Goldberg (bassoon), David Byrd-Marrow & Stewart Rose (horns) and David Washburn (piccolo trumpet)] 

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 19 December, 2021
Venue: Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City

A December tradition now in its twenty-eighth year is the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s presentation of the six Brandenburg Concertos in one sitting. The December 2020 CMS performance had to be live-streamed, but this year twenty of the Society’s musicians were back in Alice Tully Hall presenting the Brandenburg marathon before an audience.

The performances ranged from strong to spectacular. The first movement of Concerto 1 was appropriately high-spirited, with Daniel Phillips’s violin phrases deeply impassioned in the soulful Adagio, the two horns superb in the third movement, and the closing Minuet delightfully buoyant and graceful. In Concerto 3 the tightly knit ensemble of nine string-players generated tremendous momentum, sweeping inexorably forward over the subtle continuo line to deliver a simple reading of the two chords that make up the Adagio movement, and then giving way to the frenetically-paced dance that wraps things up. In Concerto 5 Kenneth Weiss rendered the harpsichord’s elaborate cadenza with flair and Ransom Wilson’s work on the flute was totally captivating.

The second half opened with a nimbly played first movement of No.2, in which other soloists were sonically outmatched by David Washburn’s piccolo trumpet in what turned out to be the most spirited and expertly rendered performance of the evening. In the winding lines of the Andante, Arnaud Sussmann’s violin, Tara Helen O’Connor’s flute, and James Austin Smith’s oboe displayed extraordinary subtleties of color and phrasing, and Washburn’s energetic and high-pitched playing in the Finale left nothing to be desired. In No.6 the violas of Yura Lee and Che-Yen Chen interacted smoothly with cellist Dmitri Atapine. To close, Tara Helen O’Connor and Adam Walker’s flutes were delightful in No.4, and Alexander Sitkovetsky’s flaming virtuosity on the violin in the closing Presto ended the concert on an appropriately festive high note.

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