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Orchestral Suites BWV 1066-1069

Yehudi Menuhin (Conductor)

Menuhin’s Orchestral Suites


Orchestral Suites - Concertos

CD-1 [67:07]
Orchestral Suites Nos. 1 - 3 BWV 1066 - 1068

CD-2 [74.38]
Orchestral Suite No. 4 BWV 1069,
Musical Offering BWV 1079

CD-3 [69:52]
Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1 - 4 BWV 1046 - 1049

CD-4 [64:45]
Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 5 & 6 BWV 1050 - 1051,
Concerto for Flute, Violin & Harpsichord BWV 1044

CD-5 [75:04]
4 Harpsichord Concertos BWV 1052 ­ 1055

CD-6 [67:29]
Harpsichord Concerto BWV 1056,
2 Concertos for 2 Harpsichords BWV 1060 - 1061,
Concerto for 3 Harpsichords BWV 1064
Concerto for 4 Harpsichords BVW 1065

CD-7 [66.50]
2 Violin Concertos BWV 1041 - 1042
Concerto for 2 Violins BWV 1043
Concerto for Violin & Oboe BWV 1060

Yehudi Menuhin/Boris Ord (directors)

Bath Festival Orchestra; Menuhin Festival Orchestra; Pro Arte Orchestra

EMI Classics


7-CD / ~ 8 hours

Buy this album at:

Peter Bright wrote (February 19, 2002):
I have had the following set sitting on my shelf for the last few weeks:

JS Bach: Orchestral Suites & Concertos, Yehudi Menuhin, Bath Festival
Orchestra /Menuhin Festival Orchestra / Pro Arte Orchestra, EMI Classics

CD1: Orchestral Suites 1-3 (BWV1066-8)
CD2: Orchestral Suite 4 (1069), Musical Offering (1079)
CD3: Brandenburg Concertos 1-4 (1046-9)
CD4: Brandenburg Concertos 5&6 (1050-51), Concerto for Flute, Violin & Harpsichord (1044)
CD5: 4 Harpsichord Concertos (1052-5)
CD6: Harpsichord Concerto (1056), 2 concertos for 2 Harpsichords
(1060-61), Concerto for 3 Harpsichords (1064), Concerto for 4 Harpsichords (1065)
CD7: 2 Violin Concertos (1041-2), Concerto for 2 Violins (1043), Concerto for Violin & Oboe (1060)

Clearly, some of these performances (particularly the violin concertos) are justifiably famous but I wonder what other list members think of these. I have heard the set once through - the most impressive single impact for me was that of the harpsichordist Ronald Kinloch Anderson's performance in the Musical Offering. I had not previously realised that Menuhin had ever been involved in a recording of this work. All in all (and at the price) a fascinating set, with intermittently sublime ensemble playing.

Santu De Silva wrote (February 19, 2002):
[To Peter Bright] Well, these are my favorite orchestral suites, that's for sure. (Read my Amazon review on their site), but I've heard Menuhin playing BWV 1060 - -a 2-violin arrangment a long time ago, and that was one of my favorite recordings at that time- -apart from that I've only head snatches of the > concerti played by Menuhin. They were great. I have a lot to say about them (probably not too interesting!) but it's on the Amazon review, and you're welcome to read them there.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 19, 2002):
[To Santu De Silva] Here's my recent review of the set.

Yehudi Menuhin¹s recordings of Bach’s orchestral music made in the 1950s stand out as a major step along the road to Bach performance practice. Eschewing the heavy orchestral arrangements of the previous decades, Menuhin performs these works with much smaller forces that the conductors who preceded him. Nevertheless, these are far from what today is called historically informed performances. Modern instruments, slow tempi, lots of vibrato, and lush arrangements are all the hallmarks of a more “classical” approach, but Menuhin’s view of these works is more musically-oriented than most, focusing on the resulting sounds rather than any abstract theoretical desire to perform these works in a specific way.

There is, however, a certain unity of tone in these performances that few conductors of this period managed to achieve. Menuhin manages to leave his mark on these works, with subtle orchestrational effects, brilliant playing of the soloists, and a true understanding of the feelings that lie behind Bach’s music. While the Orchestral Suites are played slowly - very slowly, by today¹s standards - they create a feeling of plenitude and joy that is not heard in many recordings of these works. Listening to them attentively, with headphones, one can hear the many subtle effects that Menuhin instilled into these performances, with instrumental groups changing their focus as the music progresses. In spite of the tempi, these are very engaging performances, and the lush, legato sound of the strings does not sound archaic essentially because of the size of the forces.

Menuhin¹s recording of the Musical Offering has the same characteristics, but this work is for even smaller forces and he, fortunately, does not try to impose a modern orchestral structure on the work. Again, the legato and vibrato of the strings gives it a slightly anachronic sound, but this sound is not without charm. Unfortunately, the recording of the harpsichord in this work - as in many of the pieces in this set - is poor; in the opening Ricercar, the harpsichord seems to phase in and out, and the higher end of its sound is muffled often, giving it a distant, incomplete tone. The sound is also unequal throughout the piece, with some parts sounding much better than others.

The Brandenburg Concertos feature much more sprightly tempi than the Orchestral Suites, and very attractive orchestration with relatively small forces; about as large as that commonly used for HIP recordings today. The soloists all sound fine, with the exception of the harpsichord, which is a bit low in the mix, at times. The interplay of the musicians creates a delightful atmosphere, and this recording rivals many of the best HIP recordings is vigor and energy.

The Harpsichord Concertos, a total of nine, for one, two, three and four harpsichords, are played with the same vigor and bright energy. These feature such prestigious soloists as George Malcolm, Simon Preston and Thurston Dart. Unfortunately, the sound is not very flattering for the keyboard instruments - they are very soft, and do not make it through the music when the entire orchestra is playing. When they are playing solo passages, their low volume means that listening to this disc one is confronted with a wide dynamic range: to hear the harpsichords, it must be turned up fairly loud, but, in this case, the orchestra is quite loud.

Menuhin’s violin concertos are attractive, but they don’t knock me out or have the same charm as the rest of the set. In spite of his brilliant playing, they lack the overall energy that is heard in the other works.

This is a fine set of recordings that show how Bach can be beautiful with a classic, yet restrained approach. Menuhin¹s relatively small forces and exuberant energy make most of these works essential recordings for Bach-lovers. Only the violin concertos lack the same drive, but, given the super-budget price of this set, this is not an issue. Grab it up - you won’t regret it.


Feedback to the above Review

Harry J. Steinman wrote (February 20, 2002):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Kirk...thanks much for the review. I have the Menuhin violin concertos, and, like you, do not connect with 'em. Accordingly, I would not have pursued his B-burgs, OS, MO, or keyboard concertos. I shall keep an eye out for 'em. I tend to prefer HIP-type performances, another reason I steered clear of Menuhin, figuring it would be ponderous (kind of like his violin concertos). But then, Richter and Casals are among my favorite conductors. So...why not Yehudi???

Pete Blue wrote (February 21, 2002):
[To Harry J. Steinman] Menuhin's concerto performances are, agreed, not his finest Bach moments as a performer. But may I mention his Angel recordings (transferred from LP? don't know) of the Violin/Harpsichord Sonatas with George Malcolm? IMO they manifest the greatness of the man and the musician as much as anything he has recorded since his first Elgar Concerto. Agree? Disagee?


Regarding the Orchestra Suites

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 25, 2002):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Admittedly, I have never been abeven to tolerate the sound of "authentic" baroque instruments, so I guess I will just have to lurk on the outer fringes of clubs such as this one. >
Don't think we don't appreciate the sound of "unauthentic" instruments. You will find many open-minded people on this list. I recently posted a review of Yehudi Menhuin's orchestral suites - I found them to be exceptional in their grace and subtlety.

Harry J. Steinman (February 25, 2002):
Neil Halliday wrote:
<snip> < Admittedly, I have never been able even to tolerate the sound of "authentic" baroque instruments, so I guess I will just have to lurk on the outer fringes of clubs such as this one. >
While I enjoy HIP recordings, especially the cantatas, among my favorite recordings are those of Casals and Richter...both are decidedly un-HIP.

The Recordings and Cantata Lists would probably have more recognition of the wonderful un-HIP recordings, if nice folks like you commented more on the very fine recordings that are among your favorites.

Juozas Rimas wrote (February 25, 2002):
You wrote:
< "The opening movements of Bach's orchestral suites have > this form...where A is the grand opening section (in dotted rythmns)" etc.
Once again, I can only comment on the lack of grandeur in many HIP versions, probably caused by the performers' reliance (IMO), on musicological rather than musical principles. Ofcourse, I recognise others have different opinions about this. >
I originally asked the question about the structure of the ouvertures because I felt listening to the full form (A A B A' B A' ) was a bit tiring. The music is magnificient but removing some of the repeats often makes things tighter, although not strictly according to the Baroque traditions ("rules").

However, I didn't quite understand what you meant by "lack of grandeur" in this context.

Neil Halliday wrote (Februasry 27, 2002):
Juozas Rimas wrote:
"However, I did'nt quite understand what you meant by "lack of grandeur" in this context".
I confess I just took the opportunity to air my opinions regarding performance of the "grand" opening movements of these works, rather than address the main point of your message.

To go to the point of your post, my recollection of a version of the first two suites, which I like - (Herman Scherchen and the Vienna State Opera orch. - on LP re-engineered for stereo! - is of "A" Andante (dotted rythmn) with repeat - "B" Allegro (fugal section) - "A" Andante (dotted rythmn ) without repeat. ie, AABA. Perhaps there is no hard and fast rule, and the change to triple time (marked Lentemente in my pocket score) of the final section in the case of the 2nd (B minor) suite has already been mentioned.

Regarding grandeur and "dotted rythmn", slower tempi seem to achieve this more convincingly than quicker tempi (most common with HIP), and the Scherchen is as grand as the 'Hall of Mirrors (Versailles Palace) pictured on the LP's cover!

This is also true of majestic dotted rythmn music from Mozart eg, the Rex Tremendae from the Requiem Mass, and the Qui Tollis from the Mass in G minor. (For this reason I was disappointed by Neville Marriner's version of the former in the film "Amamdeus", compared with a more measured performance by Ferdinand Grossman on an old "Oriole" LP which I have. (I usually love Marriner's work), and Karajan's version of the latter is unbelievably majestic and dramatic, compared with some more recent versions.

I hope you don't mind the digression.


Yehudi Menuhin: Short Biography | Bath Festival Orchestra | Recordings | Menuhin’s Orchestral Suites | Baker does Bach

Instrumental Works: Recordings, Reviews & Discussions - Main Page | Order of Discussion
Recording Reviews of Instrumental Works: Main Page | Organ | Keyboard | Solo Instrumental | Chamber | Orchestral, MO, AOF
Performers of Instrumental Works: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


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