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Discussions of Bach’s Instrumental Works - No. 5
Concerto in D minor for two violins BWV 1043

Francis Browne wrote (June 9, 2002):
The Concerto in D minor for two violins, the next work scheduled for discussion, is one of the most famous and popular of all Bach's music. The slow movement is invariably included on any compilation of 'The Best of Bach', 'Essential Bach', 'Romantic Bach', 'Bach Adagios' etc and it often represents Bach on more general compilations of classical music.

And rightly so. The music is supremely, hauntingly beautiful; and its popularity means there is a wide range of recordings available, often by artists not usually associated with Baroque music. The J.S. Bach Home Page has a list of recordings at: http://www.jsbach.org/1043.html

On the Naxos Website you can hear performances by Kojla Blacher and Lisa Stewart with the Cologne Chamber Orchestra (8.554603) and by the sixteen year old Yehudi Menuhin recorded in 1932 with George Enescu and Pierre Monteux (8.110965). The index numbers and 'Search our catalogue' are the easiest way to reach the recordings.

It would be interesting to have comments and reactions the work and on as wide a range of recordings as possible.

I have a curiosity to know what is the slowest recording of the second movement (most droppingly, self-indulgently romantic, squeeze-every-last drop -of expression-out-of-the music-performance) and what is the quickest (most brisk, no nonsense, virtuously HIP, Bach-is not-for-sentimentalists-performance) .The Cologne performance, Andrew Manze on Harmonia Mundi and Elizabeth Wallfisch on Virgin are all around 6:24, Menuhin surprisingly is 6:28.

Many people will listen to this concerto as their first acquaintance with Bach and want to hear more. I wonder also what members of the list would recommend to newcomers to Bach as music that is as beautiful as the concerto for two violins but not so well known? My own nomination would be the Sinfonia of BWV 106.

Thomas Radleff wrote (June 10, 2002):
< Francis Browne wrote:
< I have a curiosity to know what is the slowest recording of the second movement (most droopingly,self-indulgently romantic, squeeze-every-last drop -of expression-out-of-the music-performance) and what is the quickest (most brisk, no nonsense, virtuously HIP,Bach-is not-for-sentimentalists-performance) .The Cologne performance ,Andrew Manze on Harmonia Mundi and Elizabeth Wallfisch on Virgin are all around 6:24, Menuhin surprisingly is 6:28. >
Me also, I´m mostly curious to know the slowest (or longest – not necessarily the same!) recording of a work or a single movement. In this case, there´s no surprise yet.
My favourite recording of Bach´s violin concertos is Alice Harnoncourt´s, accompanied by the Concentus Musicus, directed by - guess who. Released on Teldec 1994, recorded between 1967 and ´77, and still fresh. Quite unspectacular, simply clear. The length of our Largo ma non tanto: 7´06´´.

But there´s another BWV 1043 included on a very interesting disc: A band named HELICON, directed by harpsichordist Albert Fuller, compiled a Vivaldi / Bach program on Reference Recordings in 1987. Trio sonatas (Vivaldi op.1/1 and BWV 1037) and concerti for two violins, most of them with the soloists Jaap Schröder & Stanley Ritchie, only our MD topic is played by Stanley Ritchie & Linda Quan. The ensemble actually is not bigger than a sextet, but provides almost orchestral sound, carefully balanced, with a warm elastic bass part. The solo parts accurately seperated on left-right channels, even with indication of the soloist´s names, who is where... The Largo is indeed very beautiful, smooth & sweet, though without Kitsch, and not
too slow: 7´02´´.

The whole disc is highly recommendable.

Michael Grover wrote (June 10, 2002):
Thomas Radleff wrote:
< "But there´s another BWV 1043 included on a very interesting disc: A band named HELICON, directed by harpsichordist Albert Fuller, compiled a Vivaldi / Bach program on Reference Recordings in 1987. Trio sonatas (Vivaldi op.1/1 and BWV 1037) and concerti for two violins, most of them with the soloists Jaap Schröder & Stanley Ritchie, only our MD topic is played by Stanley Ritchie & Linda Quan." >
FYI... Ritchie and Quan are veterans of the Handel and Haydn Society, among other groups, and are featured soloists on Hogwood's recording of the Handel Concerti Grossi op. 6. Lively performances.

Bernard Nys wrote (June 10, 2002):
I have 2 versions :

Gidon Kremer, playing violin I & II, with the Academy of SMF
Largo = 7:15

Darius Polack & Kamil Dezyzgula + Lodz Chamber Orchestra, directed by Zdzislav Szostak
Largo = 7:03

The most wonderful and unforgettable Bach Double Concerto I ever heart and saw was the concert in Paris with David Oistrach and Yehudi Menuhin. Has this concert been released on CD? I think David Oistrach, my favorite violin player, also recorded it with his son Igor on DGG.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 10, 2002):
< I have a curiosity to know what is the slowest recording of the second movement (most droopingly,self-indulgently romantic, squeeze-every-last drop –of expression-out-of-the music-performance)... >
As I recall, the 1950 Prades Festival recording of 1043 with Casals conducting was like this. The violinists were Stern and (I think) Schneider. The only copy of this I've ever heard or seen was in a 5-LP retrospective set about Casals, owned by a library that is no longer accessible to me. Within that set, this performance was the B side of a disc, opposite the exquisite 1060 with Casals conducting Stern and Tabuteau (which recording fortunately IS available on CD: Sony 58982).

Anybody know if that Casals-led 1043 is or was ever on CD? I have some of the other original Columbia LPs from Prades 1950-52, but alas, not this one.

-----

Heifetz wrung many drops of expression out of this piece in his recording with Franz Waxman conducting (1946, with Heifetz overdubbing both solo parts!). It's not particularly slow, though: 6'33". Then in his remake with Erick Friedman and Malcolm Sargent he dispatched this movement in only 5'56", and less atmosphere: that one projects a feeling of urgency, perhaps impatience.

But raw timing is a deceptive thing. Performers who project this piece in a leisurely four beats per bar (like in that first Heifetz recording, or Manze/Podger) can sound slower than those who feel it in 12. There is no reliably direct mapping here between overall timing and the amount of feeling the performers put through.

-----

I think the right character for this movement is for the two violinists to imagine they're walking in exquisitely slow circles around one another, perhaps being the bride and groom at a Jewish wedding. That balance of poise and overwhelming emotion. If it's too slow, the gracefully gliding walking motion (four slow steps) is lost. If it's too fast, it's hard to have much poise, much sense of ceremonious dance, both joyful and solemn.

Heifetz walking those circles around his own phantom...it works. He brings up the dramatic directions of this movement very nicely, and the gooseflesh on my arm confirms that.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (June 10, 2002):
Bernard Nys wrote:
< I have 2 versions :
Gidon Kremer, playing violin I & II, >
Violin I & II?? Overdubbing? Can you give me some info?

Pete Blue wrote (June 11, 2002):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Within that set, this performance was the B side of a disc, opposite the exquisite 1060 with Casals conducting Stern and Tabuteau (which recording fortunately IS available on CD: Sony 58982). Anybody know if that Casals-led 1043 is or was ever on CD? I have some of the other original Columbia LPs from Prades 1950-52, but alas, not this one. >
Lucky me. I hold in my hand Columbia ML 4351, that very Stern/Tabuteau//Schneider/Casals LP. I have just listened to Side B with a pleasure undiminished after 45 years. I have no stopwatch handy, but the "Largo ma non tante" appears to run a full eight (8) minutes!

< In the post quoted above Brad also wrote:
There is reliably direct mapping here between overall timing and the amount of feeling the performers put through. >
Wisely and truly stated. I shall have to refresh my dim memory of the Heifetz, but I can say that the Casals has plenty of momentum yet no untoward exaggeration despite its length.

The jacket notes (no booklet in those days, kids) quote Parry on the slow movement: "it is quite possible that it stands absolutely in the front rank of all Bach's movements whose reason of existence is pure beautiful melody." The Casals exemplifies this. It's a crime if there's no CD transfer somewhere.

Bernard Nys wrote (June 11, 2002):
[To Riccardo Nughes] I've read somewhere (not in the CD notes) that Gidon Kremer has used indeed overdubbing to make this recording in the Laser Line Classics DDD nr 2 from Philips. It's a nice 1982 recording featuring the 3 Violin Concertos 1041, 1042, 1043 and the Violin-Oboe Concerto with Heinz Holliger. The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields is conducted by Kremer in the 3 VC and by H. Holliger in BWV 1060.

One obvious inconvenient of this dubbing world premiere experience : the violin is the same and the famous dialogue between the 2 violins is "fake". That's what I like so much about the Oistrach-Menuhin concert in Paris: those 2 Jewish meet (for the first time ?) in Paris (first time that Oistrach left USSR ?), they don't look at each other, but they "feel" each other and their violin sound is so different, so individual. As you all know, I'm not a musician, but I can hear that the Menuhin sound is thin, almost "female" if I may say, and that the Oistrach sound is so "fat", so male, macho. In the introduction to the TV recording from the BBC Archives, they say this music is the "ideal dialogue" in music (between a man and a woman, IMO).

Kremer is a great violinist, of course, but he cannot come up to the level of those 2 giants. And as this recording is not available, as far as I know, this Philips (Budget ?) CD is a very good choice.

Trevor Evans-Young wrote (June 12, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] When I was a young lad we moved to Baltimore and my brother and I got a teacher who was in the Baltimore Symphony. For the next 4 years we only worked on the Bach double and scales. I remember this piece very fondly because my brother and I played it all the time. We did not need a pianist or an orchestra. I was only 13 playing this piece and remember how the slow movement would but me in some sort of trance. My brother at 11 had the same feeling because often we would play this movement twice in a row because once was not enough. In later years I always have the feeling that this movement is two people talking to each other. I feel that it is a mistake to play this mvoement too fast.

 

Concertos for Violin & Orchestra BWV 1041-1043: Details
Recordings:
Reviews of Individual Recordings:
Review: The Concerto Album by Lara St. John | Violin concertos by Elizabeth Wallfisch
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | MD - Concerto D Minor for two Violins, BWV 1043

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