A terrific recording
This is terrific. I wasn't at all sure I needed yet another disc of Bach violin concertos, but I was persuaded to try this because of Alina Ibragimova's magnificent performance of the Sonatas and Partitas at the 2015 Proms. I am very glad I did.
These are works which exist in a great many recordings by some truly excellent violinists, and I already have dearly loved versions by Rachel Podger, Andrew Manze, Viktoria Mullova, Julia Fischer and several others. This is an instant favourite and I suspect will remain so. The programme here is the two "established" violin concertos in A minor and E, and three transcriptions from Bach's keyboard concertos, all of which probably started life as concertos for violin or oboe d'amore. They all work very well in these excellent transcriptions and make for an interesting and varied programme.
The playing is just brilliant. Ibragimova herself is wonderful, with a beautiful tone and a lovely feel for Bach's music. She invests it with real warmth, depth and distinctive character while that essential pulse always beats strongly. Tempi in the outer movements are generally quite quick, but there is never any sense of rush or strain and her solo parts skip along delightfully but never lose any of the music's intellectual weight.
Ibragimova is superbly complemented by Arcangelo whose virtuosity and almost chamber scale give them a lovely suppleness and balance. And I don't know how historically accurate the inclusion of a lute (played by the excellent Thomas Dunford) in the continuo may be, but it gives the overall sound a delightful richness – I think it's a masterstroke.
I seem to be gushing a little, but I do genuinely love this recording. It's beautifully realised and played to perfection, Hyperion make their usual excellent job of capturing the warm, clear sound and Richard Wigmore's notes are full and informative. Even if, like me, you already have several fine recordings of Bach's violin concertos, I would strongly recommend that you make room for this disc as well. It's a gem.