Friday, December 7, 2012

Montage # 83 - Brandenburg Perspectives Brandebourgeoises - Part 1/1ere Partie

As of January 11, 2013, this montage will no longer be available on Pod-O-Matic. It can be heard or downloaded from the Internet Archive at the following address / A compter du 11 janvier 2013, ce montage ne sera plus disponible en baladodiffusion Pod-O-Matic. Il peut être téléchargé ou entendu au site Internet Archive à l'adresse suivante:

===================================================================== English Commentary – le commentaire français suit

When I planned this and next week’s montages, the idea was to mount all six Brandenburg concertos, and use Bach keyboard recordings by Glenn Gould as filler. But as I prepared the music, and did research on some of the works I was considering, things changed somewhat, and the undertone of the series morphed from a showcase of six of Bach’s greatest orchestral works with some filler into a discussion about perspective, about how certain interpretations and choices by the artists involved (or even by the composer himself) provide an at times curious insight on the term “flavour of the day”.

And just so we make things even more confusing, I chose to start with the final three concertos, keeping the first three for next week’s montage.

This week’s main “perspective” topic are the concertos themselves, and how Bach tinkered with them, moving from the model of the concerto for orchestra to the more traditional model of a concerto for one (or a few) instruments with orchestral accompaniment. As illustrations of this, I selected two performances by Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt of the Brandenburg 4 and 5 as piano concerti. In fact, the Brandenburg 4 adaptation is sanctioned by Bach, and acknowledged in the BWV catalog as his keyboard concerto no. 6. If you allow me a slight digression here, I was surprised when I surveyed Gould’s Masterworks recordings of the Bach concertos with Golschmann and Bernstein that he had not recorded the no. 6… I wonder why that is – or if I simply missed a recording…

The fifth Brandenburg Concerto, with harpsichord, flute and violin soloists, dates from 1721 and is generally regarded as the first concerto for a solo keyboard instrument ever written. Bach made the keyboard part particularly brilliant and included a huge cadenza. The recording I chose (also by Hewitt and the Australian Chamber Orchestra) has the distinction of having both a harpsichord providing the obligatory continuo and a separate “modern” piano for the soloist, making this sound more like a piano (or keyboard) concerto than it usually does.

I’ve reflected (too) many times on “historically informed performances”, which have become the norm when it comes to most of the Bach orchestral works – in particular the concertos and suites. In contrast to the HIP sound, I proposed on my Tuesday blog in January a Mahler orchestration of selected Bach suite movements. I thought it would be at least interesting to indulge in some “not so HIP” Bach, and Brandenburg 6 by Karajan and his Berlin Philharmonic sounded like something worth exploring. Next week, we will hear a couple of HIP Brandenburgs, so not to worry, I haven’t turned into a dinosaur… However, as Karajan did in some Vivaldi I proposed last year, the sound of a large orchestra playing these works sounds wrong – not that Karajan doesn’t provide insight into the music, but that the airy aspects have been overtaken by an overpowering mass of strings… For comparison, I embedded a HIP performance of the same conceto into the French commentary below.

To fill out this montage, I went back to a Hewitt album (her take-away from winning the Gould piano competition) and her reading of the four duets. Finally, another vintage view into Baroque as arranged by Leopold Stokowski.

I think you will love this music too!

Commentaire français

Pour les deux prochaines semaines, je vais parler des concertos Brandebourgeois de Bach, avec un accent particulier sur les perspectives d'interprétation toujours changeantes au cours des années.

Initialement, j'avais prévu tout bonnement présenter ces oeuvres avec des pièces pour clavier de Jean-Sébastien avec notre cher Glenn Gould en compolément de programme.

Comme plusieurs d'entre vous le savez, les concerti Brandebourgeois no. 4 et 5 ont leur part de clavier - en fait, Bach lui-même construit son sixième concerto pour clavier et cordes à partir du quatrième Brandebourgeois. Toutefois, je n'ai pas pu trouver Gould au clavier dans une version de ce concerto, mais ai trouvé la pianiste Canadienne Angela Hewitt aux commandes du clavier dans ce concerto et une instrumentation spécifique du cinquième brandebourgeois qui ajoute un piano moderne au clavecin obliogato. Ceci explique donc mon choix de présenter Mme Hewitt ici au lieu de Gould, incluant les duos pour clavier à l'entrée.

Va donc pour 4 et 5.

Pour ke sixième Branbdebiuyrgeoism on s'attendrait à une interprétation qui suit la nouvelle norme - la norme HIP - comme cette interprétation trouvée sur YouTube:

Pas pour notre montage, dédié aux perspectives changeantes... Je propose plutôt une version que l'on considère aujourd'hui archaïque, celle de Karajan d'il y a une cinquantaine d'années. Un Bach plus lent, plus lourd, appelant l'ensemble des ressources de la Philharmonique de Berlin. Musicalement, c'est fidèle aux us de l'époque, mais aux oreilles du mélomane moderne...

Va de même pour la pièce complémentaire de Vivaldi, orchestrée par Stoowski pour son usage à Philadelphie. Un baroque démodé?

A vous de juiger!

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