Just when you think there is nothing new to say and nothing more to add to the Brandenburg Concertos' rich interpretive spectrum on disc, along comes Rinaldo Alessandrini. In one fell swoop, the harpsichordist/conductor has created a reference period-instrument version for this century's first decade, shedding revealing light on this done-to-death repertoire without ever losing sight of the music's style and spirit. Because Alessandrini assigns one instrument to a part, the strings and horns interact more pungently than usual in the First Concerto, the Fourth's fugue becomes even more conversational and colorful, and the Sixth's dark-toned lower strings acquire a rare buoyancy. Furthermore, the generally fast tempos never slip onto the proverbial metronomic treadmill, while the slow movements feature unfailingly eloquent and flexible solo playing.
The Fifth's central trio-sonata movement is a case in point, where the flute and violin shape their long lines around the beat without losing awareness of it. It's sort of like classical jazz, and it works wonderfully well. If anything, trumpet soloist Gabriele Cassone sounds more lithe and effortless in this Second than in the excellent version he recorded with Il Giardino Armonico on Teldec. Alessandrini's continuo work soars with imagination, yet it never gets in the way--and what a dazzling, no-holds-barred first-movement cadenza in the Fifth!
There are two bonus tracks. One gives you Bach's earlier 18-bar version of the Fifth's cadenza; the other features Bach's later reworking of the Third's first movement that appeared as Cantata No. 174's Sinfonia, with added horns, oboes, and bassoon. Naïve's gorgeous, crystal-clear engineering seals my sky-high recommendation with a sonic kiss.--Jed Distler