Some fine morning, one suspects, we will awaken to learn that nothing in the standard repertoire was actually written by the composer of record, or, if it was, it was not in the form in which it has come down to us. The latest subjects of scrutiny to come to light are the orchestral suites of Bach. Do not be alarmed; all were composed by Johann Sebastian. But the second, it seems, was not originally intended for the flute, and the glorious trumpets in the third and fourth were afterthoughts. The First Orchestral Suite, as we know it, is apparently what Bach intended it to be. Whether this revelation comes as a disappointment is not for me to know.
This set of Bach's four Orchestral Suites from the English Baroque Soloists under their conductor, John Eliot Gardiner, is both interesting and, in the main, enjoyable. Interesting, because Gardiner, characteristically, gives us an account of the music which does not slavishly adhere to all the notions of performing style currently in fashion—his view of the grand opening gestures of the overtures themselves, for instance, is notably more expansive than that of most of his competitors in the field, Enjoyable because, in the first place Gardiner, has always, to my mind, a marvellous feeling for dance rhythms and secondly, he has a band capable of producing some ravishing sounds. In this respect both conductor and players are particularly well served by a pleasing acoustic.
An impressive set which should find plenty of admirers.