J. S. Bach, Orchestral Suites, Academy of Ancient Music, R. Egarr
(released on November 18, 2014)
AAM003 | 93'49"
As examined in some detail in my round-up of recent recordings of the orchestral suites, we have a lot more questions about these pieces than we used to. (In the booklet essay for the new AAM recording, scholar Christoph Wolff lays out the current understanding of when and why Bach composed these works.) Egarr has chosen to perform them with extremely small forces, all one musician on a part, including the string parts. On one hand the small ensemble made a sound perhaps too delicate for the large hall at Strathmore, where the audience was not able to fill the space either. On the other hand, this solved most of the balance problems, caused by delicate wind instruments, especially the historical versions played by this ensemble, being covered by too many strings. This worked just fine in the largest of the suites, no. 4, which came first on the program, with the three trumpets and timpani well behind the other players and never overpowering them. Bassoonist Ursula Leveaux had the first of many virtuosic turns in the Bourrées, cascades of smooth running notes over which the oboes chirped contentedly. Egarr, seated at the harpsichord, had considerable fun adding effects here and there on the continuo part, like a sort earthquake rumble in the concluding Réjouissance.
Patrick Rucker, Academy of Ancient Music gives Bach's Orchestral Suites the royal treatment (Washington Post, November 10)