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"I have just experienced some joyful playing on modern instruments of one of the greatest collection of orchestral works written. The tempi are not in any way slow (except to those who are now 100% acclimatised to period instruments) and nor is any of the phrasing romantically self-indulgent. The tuning is also of a very high standard and nowhere did I find my sensibilities jarring through bad playing. Instead of piano (as some modern instrument sets used to employ) a harpsichord, tastefully balanced, is given the task of fleshing out No.5 and the continuo role elsewhere, which it does admirably. Almost full marks for the performances on their own terms, although those seeking period instruments had better look elsewhere.
The sound, whilst beautifully recorded and balanced (in the sense that every instrument can be heard) is much more controversial. As this was recorded as a "Real Surround Sound" issue, each concerto has a different seating arrangement which some (but not me) might feel detract from the musical experience & they are detailed below: 1 - Normal (orchestra "front", ambience "rear") 2 - The listener is situated in the middle of the ensemble with violin (front L), flute (front R), oboe (rear L) & trumpet (rear R) in the foreground compared to the orchestra 3 - The violins are on the left, violas in front, celli to the right of the listener 4 & 5 - The three soloists for each concerto are placed front L, centre & front R with the orchestra seated behind the listener 6 - The soloists are placed directly in front of and behind the listener with the orchestra split either side.
Whilst this is certainly a way of hearing it that no-one would ever experience in concert (except as a performer perhaps), once the initial shock has worn off the effect is most pleasing with all details coming naturally to the fore and it is very pleasing to hear all the solo lines so clearly. This is also, in large part, due to the slim-line string forces employed by the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester – 5, 4, 4, 3, 1 – and the magnificent unanimity of ensemble on display which is entirely at the disposal of Bach’s magnificent creations.
The 2 channel layer adopts the balance from 1 throughout (not that it would be possible to do otherwise!) and is thoroughly beautiful and realistic.
Highly recommended unless an avid MCH fan & the thought of separate seating arrangements puts you off."
John Broggio

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