Bach: Four Overtures

One-to-a-part Bach that dances infectiously

Bach: Four Overtures

Bach's four"Overtures," perhaps best known in their later versions as  "Orchestral Suites"  or just "Suites," are heard here in what might be considered an original version, one to a part and without trumpets and drums (we know enough to know they were later additions). The result in Concerto Copenhagen and Lars Ulrik Mortensen is a wonderfully bright, breezy succession of movements that will act as invaluable supplement to one's preferred version of the "full" orchestral suites (I confess a preference for Ton Koopman and Concerto Amsterdam for those).

Here's the opening movement of the First Overture, where you can hear the transparency fo texture (and decide if you like the one-to-a-part approach!):

One thing that characterises Mortensen's Bach is a lightness. Bach's Overtures are replete with dance movements, and Mortensen clearly sees this as the key to unlocking this music. There is what some might consider a "reduced orchestra here in the one-to-a-part approach but just listen to the detail as well as the jauntiness in the dance movements, perhaps particularly in the "Forlane" and in the very next movement, a "Menuet".

Here's the Overture to the Second Overture (!), the B-Minor (the one with the solo flute part); I promise you will recognise some of this !. This Overture feels more restrained, gentile, the superb flute of Katy Bircher a vital part of this Overture:

The beautiful sway to the Rondeau, the sheer virtuosity of the Bourée, the poise of the well-known Polonaise all lead to a remarkably nimble Badinerie, light as a soufflé and just as delicious.

The Third Suite is traditionally thought to have a certain grandeur about it; the later version boasted full three trumpets. It does hold the famous "Air" (here nicely brisk but still wonderfully expressive, and with the added transparency how we can revel in teh interplay of parts). True, the Gavotte, heard in its brass-encrusted version, has a real brightness to it, almost regal in its demeanour. here it is more of a courtly dance at a ball; but a lovely one nonetheless. And how, as a finale, the Gigue dances.

It's clearly the day for quoting Overtures to Overtures, as here's the one for the Fourth:

A bit cruel on good old Otto, perhaps, but just to remind us of the grandiosity that can be achieved here (not sure "achieved" is the right word!), and firmly form a different era, is Otto Klemperer with the New Philharmonia Orchestra in the complete Suite:

You may wish to click on a Spotify link after that to refresh your palette! The nobility of the Gavotte (track 22 on the compact disc) or the Spring-fresh "Réjouissance" finale, both from the Fourth Overture, should do the trick!

Wonderful Spring-fresh performances from Mortensen and Concerto Copenhagen on cpo. Regular readers of Classical Explorer will perhaps remember that we have encountered Concerto Copenhagen and Mortensen before - in a delightful Christmas disc on Naxos, Per la notte di Natale.