A Stylist Sequel for Bach's Brandenburg Concertos

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Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos – those perennial Baroque crowd-pleasers beloved by both modern chamber ensembles and early-music groups – are getting a sequel.

In 2010, the late oboist and musicologist Bruce Haynes conceived the idea that Bach might have reused some of his cantatas in constructing the Brandenburg Concertos. After all, Bach was a chronic recycler, both of his own work and that of other composers, and while on deadline he would often rework an existing tune for a new occasion. 

Haynes chose six cantatas as a basis for a set of “new” Brandenburgs and began transcribing the vocal lines for the instrumental forces used in the original Brandenburgs. He had orchestrated three of them before his untimely death in May 2011, during what was supposed to be low-risk heart surgery. He was 69. His widow, cellist Susie Napper, finished the set and oversaw this recording.

The Bande Montréal Baroque presents all six concertos, each with a different configuration. The concertos are numbered seven to 12 and are structurally modeled after the six originals. Horn, trumpet, oboe and recorders all make appearances. The first features prominent solo trumpet lines. The bouncy third, for strings, omits the middle movement just as the original does.

The most interesting of the batch may be Concerto No. 11 for oboe, harpsichord, strings and bass continuo, which features lively virtuosic turns for oboist Matthew Jennejohn and harpsichordist Erin Helyard.

The performances, conducted by Eric Milnes, are appropriately zesty and without a whiff of mustiness, as they should be.

The New Brandenburg Concertos
Bande Montréal Baroque
Eric Milnes, conductor
Available at Arkivmusic.com