Bach Orchestral Suites by La Petite Bande

Bach: The Orchestral Suites. La Petite Bande, Sigiswald Kuijken, Director. Accent ACC24279 (2013).

Sigiswald Kuijken, Sara Kuijken, Barbara Konrad, Ann Cnop; violins, Marleen Thiers; Viola, Marian Minnen, Ronan Kermoa; bass violins, Barthold Juijken; flute, Vinciane Baudhuin, Emiliano Rodolfi, Mathieu Loux; oboes, Rainer Johannsen; bassoon, Jean-François Madeuf, Jérôme Princé, Graham Nicholson; trumpets, Koen Plaetinck; timpani, Benjamin Alard; harpsichord.

La Petite Bande has recorded a spectacular rendition of Bach’s four orchestral suites, certainly some of the most spectacular instrumental music of the Baroque repertoire.  La Petite Bande director, Sigiswald Kuijken, has written a very informative essay explaining the history of these pieces. Unfortunately, more is unknown than known.  Kuijken speculates that the works were conceived for string orchestra and the wind parts were added at a later date. He also notes that sections of the 4th Suite were reused in the opening chorus of the Christmas Cantata, BWV 110.  Kuijken also remarks that he has rethought his approach to these works opting for small musical forces as opposed to the rather large ensemble that La Petite Bande employed in its performances and recording of about 30 years ago. He is to be commended for that note of honesty and courage to reexamine his previous musical approach.  Kuijken also takes special note of the trumpet section, praising them for their use of playing ventless instruments and employing authentic performance practice techniques. The pioneering work of historically informed trumpet performance by Jean-François Madeuf, Nicholson, Princé, and a few others is well known to HBS members. It is heartening to read the praise by a leading conductor so publically announced in the notes to a CD.

The performances of these works by La Petite Bande is stunning. The execution is precise and the fast tempi do not hinder the performance in the least. Of special interest to HBS members will be the wonderful trumpet playing. Madeuf and company play flawlessly and their ornaments are beautiful and tasteful.  The ensemble is playing at A= 415 Hz and the trumpeters are playing copies of an Ehe instrument made by Graham Nicholson. HBS members will certainly want this CD in their collection. We owe Madeuf a continued note of thanks for his tireless efforts at promoting authentic performance practice. It is encouraging that one of his first students, Jérôme Princé, is carrying on these efforts joining his former teacher in this wonderful recording.

-- Jeffrey Nussbaum