REVIEW: The Brandenburg Duets by Eleonor Bindman and Jenny Lin

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Donald Hunt gives 5-star praise to pianists Eleonor Bindman and Jenny Lin.

 

Eleonor Bindman and Jenny Lin: The Brandenburg Duets

Review by Donald Hunt

FIVE STARS

 

The music of Bach in its time was largely overshadowed by other noteworthy baroque composers such as Handel and Vivaldi. Thanks in large part to Mendelssohn reviving Bach’s music in the 19th century, Bach is not only considered the greatest composer of the Baroque period, but one of the greatest composers of any era. One of Bach’s crowning achievements was the Brandenburg Concertos, a huge orchestral feat for that particular period.

Now vividly transcribed by pianist Eleonor Bindman for piano duet with Jenny Lin, the Brandenburg Concertos take on a new life. One other duet transcription of these six concertos exist by German composer Max Reger, but Bindman found them to be incredibly flawed in how unbalanced the writing was for the left and right hand.

The album is sequenced not in the order of the concertos, but in a cycle that best engaged the listener as if it were a recital (the order by concertos is 1, 3, 5, 6, 4, 2 and this cycle was used by conductor Claudio Abbado). Out of the 6 concertos, Concerto No. 5 is undoubtedly the highlight (and the most iconic of the six concertos) as it already has a built-in harpsichord solo part for Bindman and Lin to sink their teeth into. What Bindman and Lin achieve as a dual partnership in the climactic cadenza of Concerto No. 5 is breathtaking in its sheer precision and vitality.  

The Brandenburg Concertos fit naturally as a piano duet as one hears the harmonies in a completely fresh form. I’m not a huge advocate of the modern piano’s place in baroque music from a historically informed perspective, but Bindman and Lin’s sensitive phrasing made for an effective rendering of these beloved concertos. The biggest takeaway of this album is the amount of joy that pours out of the playing from these two elite pianists. One can gather the utmost respect Bindman has in making sure Bach’s spiritual music comes through in a complete statement. If one can smile and be intellectually challenged simultaneously, then you’ve done your job as a player of Bach’s standard.

Created well in time before the 300th anniversary of the Brandenburg Concertos, the young talents of the piano world will now dive into what could eventually be standard repertoire for piano duos.