Author Topic: mini-blind comparison - JS Bach 'reconstructed' Violin Concerto in D Minor  (Read 578 times)

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Offline aukhawk

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I offer here for our amusement, a mini-blind listening comparison, of Bach's 'reconstructed' Violin Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1052.

BWV 1052 is a keyboard concerto, but is increasingly being claimed by violinists as their own, on the grounds that many of the note figurations in this music fall more easily under a violinist's fingers than under a keyboardist's.  In a quick trawl, I had no difficulty finding at least 20 recorded versions, mostly quite recent recordings but one dating back as far as 1960 (Oistrakh, not included in this comparison).
In either violin or keyboard format, this is among Bach's most brilliant (in a virtuoso sense) orchestral works.  The extract presented here does include a 'cadenza' but really this music is all about tight concertante work between soloist and orchestra.

To get you in the mood there is this very fine perfomance on video by Shunske Sato and the Netherlands Bach Society on their All of Bach website - this is what it's all about!
https://www.bachvereniging.nl/en/bwv/bwv-1052r/

The mini-blind extract starts midway through the 1st movement and fades shortly after the 'cadenza'.  In each group (2 groups of 5) I've extended the first sample a bit earlier, to give a better context to my 'in point' (which happens to coincide with a key change).  And in each group I've extended the last sample to run to the end of the movement - to 'drop the other shoe'.  Each sample is around 3m40 on average.

Two zip files - not very user-friendly but I've found hosting anonymised mp3 files to be increasingly difficult, as most cloud-based storage sites simply analyse the unmarked file and restore the tagging, often even the cover image!  Each zip is about 35Mb, and contains five mp3 files numbered 1 to 5.

A1-5:
B1-5:
these files have now been removed
« Last Edit: July 02, 2020, 02:30:23 AM by aukhawk »

Offline (: premont :)

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Thanks, nice idea. I'm participating.
It's better to act today than to regret tomorrow.
(Mette Frederiksen)

Offline mc ukrneal

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You know I'm there! I'll post when I am able.
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Offline aukhawk

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Thanks both!  ;)

Some stats:
in each set, female soloists (slightly) outnumber males.
of all 10 recordings, half have been released in the last five years, two or maybe three were first released last century.

Offline (: premont :)

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Listened mow three times to your files. Still much to find out. It is not that easy, f.x. preauthentic interpretations (Zehetmaier, Accardo, Verhey, Suske, Faust/Rilling, Blacher may not differ that much from each other, and I own most of these recordings and many more, but I would find any control listening unsportmanslike and adverse to the point of this blind listening. So I need some more days.
It's better to act today than to regret tomorrow.
(Mette Frederiksen)

Offline Brian

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I'm excited to listen Monday - my computer stopped turning on a week ago, and I've been stuck with only a phone since. The new computer arrives tomorrow and it will be exciting to be able to download files and do some serious listening again.

Offline mc ukrneal

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I've listened to all 10 and have generally formed an opinion, but would like to listen to a few of them again with certain details in mind. This is fun!
Be kind to your fellow posters!!

Offline aukhawk

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Listened mow three times to your files. Still much to find out. ... So I need some more days.

... it will be exciting to be able to download files and do some serious listening again.

I've listened to all 10 and have generally formed an opinion, but would like to listen to a few of them again with certain details in mind. This is fun!

You guys are hard-core!  Respect!!   ;D

Offline mc ukrneal

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Although I have multiple versions of this piece, I barely know it, so this should be interesting…

Stop reading if you want to listen to them without knowing the comments of others....

Last chance to turn back (:))...

A1 -  A bit too bright, but well played. Good feel for the rhythms. Also over-reverberant for my tastes. Some inconsistencies in terms of intonation, perhaps because of the speed? A bit more variation in dynamics would have been welcome. Wearing on the ear.
A2 – The support here is more prominent and the relationship here is preferable in terms of contrast. But the performer seems lost among the notes in terms of dynamics. Alternatively, the soloist is more closely integrated with the orchestra. Also a bit wearing about 2:30 in, with grating  sounds coming from the instrument. When the soloist plays this alone I prefer it, and I prefer the orchestra, but the result is somehow less interesting.
A3 – Immediately, this a better balance between soloist and orchestra. I notice many more details here, even if the violin at the top is overly bright for my taste. I like how this performance has better flow and is more focused as a whole on the line of the music. Great intensity here too. I connected with this version.
A4 – Slower speed allows for a bit more detail, and I like the sound, But as in A2, the violin is sublimated a bit much into the orchestral textures. The reverb has been lessened, which makes it all easier to listen to. But the soloist isn’t as interesting to me.
A5 – Much faster (and crisp), and since everyone plays well, it packs in the excitement. Yet the control of the artist is clearly in evidence and this has a much more idiosyncratic approach. But both artists and orchestra are well matched in approach. Some great bow work here.

A3 and A5 are the stars from the first grouping, and quite different in how they get their results. I would be happy with either, though perhaps better to have both!! 😊

B1 – Good playing, but this is a lower intensity performance. The bass/lower parts come through a bit better and I like the instrument choices on the supporting voices. Clearly a talented soloist, but not always as audible as I would like. Still, generally an amiable version with some good work in the second half of the clip.
B2 – The group work is not encouraging, but the soloist shows his/her mettle at times. Still, somehow seems underpowered to me. Perhaps it’s just too staccato alongside the irritating sounds sometimes produced? Labored at times.
B3 – Exciting with dynamic contrasts all over. Good control from the soloist again – reminding me in some ways of A5. I like how this version is quite good with its restraint, which always gives you the sense they could go in any direction at any time. Decrescendo towards the end of the solo part was perhaps not as good as some of the others. Still, I liked this one.  Clean playing. Pleasing to the ear as well.
B4 – A slower version. And a choppier feel. Soloist is not always as clean as I’d like (and perhaps labored in moments), but generally ok.
B5 – Soloist is eclipsed in parts, and I had to strain to hear. Music has a nice bounce to it, but the tempo is too inconsistent for me.
SO in the B group, I preferred B3, and  joy it is.

Among A3, A5, and B3? Well, that’s a tough one. I’d be happy with any of them. The soloist in A5 gets the most heart-stopping moments (though perhaps the soloist stands out too much, so I could see some preferring others), so I think I’d go with that one, but all three are excellent. If forced to choose between B3 and A3, I think I’d go with B3. I liked the balance and flow in that one (as well as perhaps the best rapport between soloist and orchestra). And I could see myself preferring that one at times above the rest.

Thanks once again to aukhawk for providing these. They are a real joy to listen to!!!
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Offline aukhawk

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That's a great start thanks! 
Good that you found such clear points of difference - I was a bit concerned about this comparison because the variations in tempi for example are all within a fairly narrow range, similarly variations of soloist/orchestra balance.

One of the versions you like the best, and one of the ones you liked the least - both feature the same (period specialist) orchestra.  In each case the orchestra is directed by the soloist, as is the also case for some, but not all, of the other versions.

Offline mc ukrneal

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That's a great start thanks! 
Good that you found such clear points of difference - I was a bit concerned about this comparison because the variations in tempi for example are all within a fairly narrow range, similarly variations of soloist/orchestra balance.

One of the versions you like the best, and one of the ones you liked the least - both feature the same (period specialist) orchestra.  In each case the orchestra is directed by the soloist, as is the also case for some, but not all, of the other versions.
But that's the great thing about comparing pieces that have soloists - even if one aspect doesn't differ too much, others will. And in this case, I think the soloists are clearly doing some different stuff when they are playing, which is what makes it so interesting. It really highlights for me just how many different decisions there are to make, even in such a short span of time.

Now I am really interested in the same orchestra, different soloists versions. Sometimes we think, "Same orchestra, similar interpretation." It shows just how much of an impact the leader/soloist/conductor can have even with a similar reference point.
Be kind to your fellow posters!!

Offline Cato

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I offer here for our amusement, a mini-blind listening comparison, of Bach's 'reconstructed' Violin Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1052.

BWV 1052 is a keyboard concerto, but is increasingly being claimed by violinists as their own, on the grounds that many of the note figurations in this music fall more easily under a violinist's fingers than under a keyboardist's.  In a quick trawl, I had no difficulty finding at least 20 recorded versions, mostly quite recent recordings but one dating back as far as 1960 (Oistrakh, not included in this comparison).
In either violin or keyboard format, this is among Bach's most brilliant (in a virtuoso sense) orchestral works.  The extract presented here does include a 'cadenza' but really this music is all about tight concertante work between soloist and orchestra.

To get you in the mood there is this very fine perfomance on video by Shunske Sato and the Netherlands Bach Society on their All of Bach website - this is what it's all about!
https://www.bachvereniging.nl/en/bwv/bwv-1052r/

The mini-blind extract starts midway through the 1st movement and fades shortly after the 'cadenza'.  In each group (2 groups of 5) I've extended the first sample a bit earlier, to give a better context to my 'in point' (which happens to coincide with a key change).  And in each group I've extended the last sample to run to the end of the movement - to 'drop the other shoe'.  Each sample is around 3m40 on average.

Two zip files - not very user-friendly but I've found hosting anonymised mp3 files to be increasingly difficult, as most cloud-based storage sites simply analyse the unmarked file and restore the tagging, often even the cover image!  Each zip is about 35Mb, and contains five mp3 files numbered 1 to 5.

A1-5:
http://www.mediafire.com/file/ag3fl2y4ie5uoj7/a1-5.zip/file
B1-5:
http://www.mediafire.com/file/v4mhuq73hfnpsfn/b1-5.zip/file

How have I missed this?   ???

I will be listening soon!  COUNT ME IN!!!  We have not done this in some time!  Many thanks, Awesome AUKHAWK!!!   0:)
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline aukhawk

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Please do, Cato and Brian.  We'll have something like a quorum then!   ;)   It's only about 20 minutes of listening per group.

Thanks premont - some good well-informed guesses, no surprise there - but also some that were surprisingly wide of the mark. 
In fact - I'm going to have to re-check my zip files now, to make sure I haven't mixed up the labelling  :laugh:  :laugh:

Offline (: premont :)

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Thanks premont - some good well-informed guesses, no surprise there - but also some that were surprisingly wide of the mark. 

Yes I understand that. I must have listened very inattentively. A relistening reveals, that A3, A4 and B4 are played on period instruments. Stil I find these conceptions relatively conservative. But I am going to edit my post a bit.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2020, 02:36:30 AM by (: premont :) »
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Offline (: premont :)

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Even if I also have multiple versions of this concerto, I haven’t listened to the violin version that much, generally preferring the keyboard version, so a lot of these CDs I have heard only once.

The part of the concerto chosen here focuses almost entirely on the soloist, so it may be difficult to evaluate the balance or even the characteristics (size) of the ripieno in the recordings. The recordings are sometimes difficult to distinguish, because they do not differ that much in conception.

A1)  Period instruments. Fast with incessant rhythm, often hectic and with ragged solo playing as if the soloist had been better off at a slightly slower pace. This is how I recall the recording of Amandine Bayer, so she is my first guess.

A2)  Period instruments.  Still fast but never hectic. The soloist more in control with some interesting phrasing at times. Also some exaggerated dynamic contrasts in the solo part. One of my quibbles is the sudden halving  of the tempo at the top of the bariolage setion making up for a very mannered effect.Having read the hint above I tend  towards Midori Seiler /AAMBerlin.

A3)  Period instruments. Rather middle of the road performance.  The soloist prominent. The playing reminds me of Podger, but she hasn’t recorded the work. Wallfish may be the closest.

A4)  Period instruments.  Again a middle of the road performance a bit more relaxed than A3.. Nice solo contribution. The ensemble is bigger. The recording feels acoustically as well as spiritually to be on the older side, so my guess would be Harnoncourt or Ritchie, even if I do not positively recall any of them having that boomy acoustics.

A5)  Period instruments. Fast and brilliant. Excellent solo work. The only recording of these 10, which displays the demonic character of the concerto fully. I suppose it’s Carmignola.

B1)  Period instruments.  Fast and very balanced and controlled. Never hectic. While A5 tended a bit towards the showy, this is never the case here. I think it’s Faust / AAMBerlin rather than one of Wallfish’s recordings.

B2)  Modern instruments.  An energetic and brilliant performance not the least on the part of the soloist. I tend to say Salvatore Accardo.

B3)  Period instruments.  The ripieno relatively  weighty. Style may be called middle of the road HIP. Not the most engaging playing, but everything reasonably satisfying without bad surprises. Soloist competent enough. Debretzeni / Gardiner would be my guess.

B4) Period  instruments. The soloist is well balanced keeping momentum throughout without sounding mechanical. The solo episodes played in an organic and natural way. Huggett?

B5) Period instruments. Here it is obvious, that the arranger (the soloist?) thinks, that the original concerto was a violin concerto by Vivaldi, and it is performed as such, in the way modern Italian ensembles play Vivaldi. Only an Italian would think in that way, and I think the person in question is Fabio Biondi.

Concerning my preferences among these recordings I think A5, B1 and B4 stand out. I do not care much for A1, A2 or B5.
It's better to act today than to regret tomorrow.
(Mette Frederiksen)

Offline aukhawk

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I didn't find Huggett.  I would certainly have wanted to include her if I had.

Offline Cato

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A 5 - This is the best one out of the A Group.  The music speaks something important, something dramatic, something urgent, and the playing is in the background.  The bariolage/cadenza at c. 2:25 is the best!  The dynamic variation allows the drama to be revealed.

The middle ranking is a bit difficult:

A 2 - Very smooth performance, with a good, expressive version of the bariolage at c. 2:25.

A 3 - A measured performance, good clarity, the performers at first seem simply to play the notes, and then find some interesting expression after c. 2:30.

A 4 - Could be switched with the above: a slower pace allows the music to say more in the opening, but I found that the bariolage fell apart, and things went quickly downhill.

Any of those could be switched around and I could agree.

A 1 - Whoa!  Intonation problems at the beginning, possibly from going too fast?  Good clarity among the voices: the bariolage starts off well but then goes into rough territory again.


More later on B Group!

"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline Cato

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B 1 - Fairly exciting playing throughout, with clear lines and smooth playing: not much change in the dynamics, but it works nicely.


B 2 - Another exciting performance, which, however, tells more of a story through slight variations in speed and in dynamics, along with a some different, delicate touches now and then in the bowing.


B 3 - The playing was good, and became better toward the 3:00 mark: good balance, just not quite as interesting as the previous ones.


B 4 - A little too "powdered-wig-18th-century-chamber-music-room" for my taste: a slower pace, but the even nature of everything felt too controlled.  "The notes were played nicely, weren't they Countess?"   ;)


B 5 - Here we have INTERPRETATION taken to an extreme.  Premont is quite correct in his comments above about this one.  But is it so "over-interpreted" as to be distorted?  Yes.  I do not think Der Alte Bach would be pleased.   Certainly the playing is competent and there is a kind of drama, but at times one feels the attention is on the playing rather than on the music itself.

The above is my ranking, although B 4 could be switched with B 3.
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline aukhawk

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Though listening to the slow 2nd movement - which of course I haven't presented here - the music does sound very Vivaldi I think - even under the Germanic or mittel-European fingers of some of these artist(e)s .

Thanks Cato - well it looks as though A5 is unstoppable, having been singled out by all three of you so far.  My own favourite is in the A group but is not A5 - although I agree that in the particular excerpted passage selected, A5 shines and my favourite does not.

With premont's help (thanks!) I have been able to listen to Huggett, who opens her set of 4 concertos on this issue:



It is a rather beautiful recording - I mean both the playing and the sound quality - I would definitely have included her in the 10 I shortlisted above, probably replacing A4.  Huggett is around the same (slow) pace as A4 but with a much wider range of expression and a creamy warmth of tone.  Incidentally I note that CD (4 concertos) is available as a FLAC download for a pittance as little as 2.07 Euros - here at Music Bazaar

Will wait a day or 2 to see if Brian's computer comes back on stream  ;) - and the samples are still available for another week or so if anyone else wants to join in.

Offline (: premont :)

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My own favourite is in the A group

A3?
It's better to act today than to regret tomorrow.
(Mette Frederiksen)