DEFINITIVE RECORDINGS
Bach - Café Zimmermann5

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Bach - Café Zimmermann6

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Bach - Café Zimmermann4

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Bach - Café Zimmermann3

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Bach - Café Zimmermann2

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Bach - Café Zimmermann1

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Bach - Café Zimmermann - Complete

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JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH - Concertos avec plusieurs instruments Vol. 5 - Café Zimmermann - 3760014191688 - Released: February 2011 - Alpha 168

Way back in the day Johann Sebastian Bach worked with a group of musicians from 1729 to 1736 and then 1739 to 1741. They went by the name Collegium Musicum. The group was founded by Georg Telemann and the directorship transferred to Bach in 1729. They played most weeks in a popular coffee house called Zimmermann's. The concerts were well attended by both musicians that frequented Leipzig and the patron's of Zimmermann's. What is known is that the concerts were lively and varied. They were not always little chamber events. The coffee cantata was one piece written for Zimmermann's. Transcriptions of the latest and greatest by Telemann and Locatelli are known to have been played. Bach's sons were called into service for parts in the multiple instrument concertos. Imagine, Papa Bach on the large pedal harpsichord that Zimmermann had, and two or three of the younger Bach's at other harpsichords moved in from Papa's house. Must have been some place to go and spend an evening!

So now that you feel like having a good cup of coffee, what are you going to do to satiate the music hunger? Anyone for a slice of torten?

This is a new CD by an ensemble that goes by the name: Café Zimmermann.

It is fifth in a series of CD's that recreate the music that may have been played on those evenings in Zimmermann's coffee house. The programs are varied and rich in sound. The playing is impeccable. Some of the most enduring Bach CD's I have owned. This latest disc is wonderful. The concert performed starts with the Third Orchestral Suite. Many things happen correctly making this version one of the best I have ever listened to. The tempos are lively and motivating. And the slow movement is not so slow as to put you to sleep. I never liked it when it became a competition of honey and sugar coating. The accents are all on the right notes. If you have listened to a lot of versions of the orchestral suites you will know what that means. This way of playing the music fits, it doesn't seem forced or contrived. The timpani are robust and forward when called upon. And the trumpets are just wonderfully balanced against the strings and woodwinds.

Next up on the program is the Harpsichord Concerto BWV 1056. Right to the point it is a great version. Balance and interplay between the players is top notch. This has become my reference to judge all others. The slow movement is tender and just right in it's expressiveness. The last movement has the wonderful interplay in between the main body of instruments and the harpsichord. Again it is all about balance. And I don't mean the kind controlled by a slider on the mixing board. The kind where there is a careful thinking on the part of each player at each moment in the music. One of Bach's son's remarked that his father viewed well arranged music as a lively conversation between a group of friends. If nothing pertaining to the conversation could be added then there was silence from that person. When something was needed it fit in perfectly. A lively moving dialogue between knowledgeable friends.

Nothing in the field of early music is more like this than the Brandenburg Concerto No. 6. The different interplay of the sonorities takes a bit of getting used to. The violins are not front and center here. Violas rule! Many groups don't pull this off quite right. It can sound forced and strange as if the players are being pushed to their limits. This version has a fluidity and interplay between the performers that has to be heard to be appreciated. I cannot imagine a better way to perform this concerto. It is that good. I heard insights into the music I never really thought of before. And I have listened to the Brandenburg's for almost thirty years!

Last on the program is BWV 1063. A concerto for three harpsichords. My first exposure to this one was with Trevor Pinnock's group. Move over Trevor, the Café has taken over the block. I have said this before but that saying applies to such a great extent that it should be repeated.

We live in a time period where the music of Bach has gone from being discovered, to being learned, to being understood. This group, Café Zimmerman have put together a series of concerts that are the reference to what can be done with the music of J.S. Bach. When you have a very thorough understanding of the music, the period, and the instruments used, you can play the music. When you pass that point to understand the thoughts and feelings behind those little dots on five lines, you can produce what is on this disc.

Buy it. Four thumbs up. I'm commandeering Jean's thumbs.

Oh yeah, the other five CDs in the series are just as good.

Mark Kravchenko - February 2011