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Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, July 2013

The sheer beauty and affability of these performances will invite me back to them often, more often I daresay than will a number of impersonal and impassive accounts of recent vintage on both period and modern instruments. Oliveira proves once again, if proof be needed, that Bach belongs to no one school of playing, and that pure, heartfelt music-making transcends all ages. This is very strongly recommended. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

Edith Eisler
Strings Magazine, March 2011

This recording illustrates how profoundly the “period practice” movement has affected our approach to Baroque music. It has become amazingly difficult to listen to Bach played with full vibrato, on modern instruments, and from a modern point of view. Elmar Oliveira is a fine violinist—winner of the Moscow International Tchaikovsky Competition and numerous Grammy nominations. On this disc, recorded live in concert, he also directs the Arco Ensemble, which supports him admirably.

Solid and secure, Oliveira’s playing is oriented entirely to the violin, so his technical choices are dictated by what feels and sounds best. His tone is pure, his intonation flawless. Technical difficulties do not exist. Tempi and dynamics are moderate, rhythm is steady, and he takes few if any rhythmic liberties, except for waiting a very long time between sections and on fermatas. The only pervasively disturbing element is a tendency to accent every strong beat (or perhaps every down bow?), which compromises Bach’s long melodic lines and phrases.

Still, the performance is thoroughly respectable, though it lacks imagination and involvement. It feels as if the players were outside both the music and their own reactions to it. The G minor Concerto, a transcription of the F minor Harpsichord Concerto, is not really suited to the violin, except for the beautiful, singing slow movement with its highly ornamented reprise.

The recording’s highlight is the Double Concerto, with violinist Eva Gruesser joining Oliveira as soloist. She seems to inject rhythmic and emotional freedom and a Romantic lyricism into the playing as the accents disappear and the melodies flow and soar.

Joseph Magil
American Record Guide, March 2011

Elmar Oliveira and Arco Ensemble are unashamedly traditional in their approach to this music: modern-style instruments and bows, bowing mostly on the string, continuous vibrato. This works beautifully in the slow movements of the E-major and reconstructed G-minor Concertos, where Oliveira makes some truly luscious sounds.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, December 2010

Personally, I find it interesting to note that, forty years or more into the present Baroque revival with its enthusiasm, amounting almost at times to a fetish for original instruments and authentic practices of the period, all my recordings of J.S. Bach’s violin concertos are done with modern instruments. There needs be no apology for that, and in the present recordings violinist Elmar Oliveira and the members of the string ensemble Arco make none. The quicker modern instruments possess a noticeable advantage over the gutstrung museum pieces that we too often hear in “authentic” baroque recordings in that they are quicker, and you can do more with them.

That doesn’t mean you ignore the techniques needed to achieve the effects Bach desired, as for example the notable bariolage in the final movement, an energetic gig, of the Concerto in a Major, BWV 1041. This bowing technique involves quick alternation between a static note and changing notes, where the static note is usually on an open string, so that the violinist sounds the same pitch back and forth, creating a uniquely resonant, shimmering effect. Another case in point is the Adagio movement of the Concerto in E Major, BWV 1042. Here Oliveira cherishes Bach’s cantabile melody built on a persistent bass, a supreme example of Baroque cantilena that is uniquely wonderful, even in a program of four concerti whose slow movement melodies will stay in your head for a long time after you’ve heard them.

Another example of an exquisite beauty is the famous Largo of the Concerto in G minor, BWV 1056b, a work usually heard as a keyboard concerto but here transcribed in very idiomatic terms to what is supposed to have been its original form as a violin concerto. This being one of Bach’s best loved melodies (see the Beatles, “Hey Jude, don’t let me down”), it is interesting to note its similarity to the pure, unembellished oboe passage in the Sinfonia to Bach’s Cantata 156, “Ich steh mit einem Fuß im Grabe” (I stand with a foot in the grave) where it expresses resignation and patient hope in the resurrection and eternal life.

Finally, in the Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins, BWV 1043, Oliveira is joined by violinist Eva Gruesser in a work remarkable for the subtle, expressive relationship between the two soloists, involving fugal imitation and counterpoint that weaves harmoniously rich lines into intricate patterns. Once again, that observation is particularly true of the slow movement, marked Largo ma non tanto and one of Bach’s most sublime creations.

Edward Reichel
Deseret News, November 2010

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote quite a few violin concertos, many of which have been lost. Those that have survived the centuries since his death in 1750 have been recorded countless times over the years, but there still is room for more recordings especially when played with the musicality of someone like Elmar Oliveira.

Recently, Oliveira released a CD on his Artek label of four concertos, including the Double Concerto in D minor, BWV 1043.

The three solo concertos—in A minor, BWV 1041; in E major, BWV 1042; and in G minor, BWV 1056b, a reworking of Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056—are played with infinite musicality. Oliveira brings subtlety to his flowing phrasings that capture the elegance of the slow movements. And in the faster outer movements, Oliveira’s keen sense of rhythm brings vibrancy to the music and underscores its soft dance- like charm.

Eva Gruesser joins Oliveira in the Double Concerto, and the interplay between the two soloists is wonderful. Their duets sound like one instrument and they bring finely shaded nuances to their interpretation.

The Arco Ensemble, conducted by Oliveira, brings a nicely hewn balance to the equation. Both the ensemble and the soloists give an understated performance that is nevertheless dynamic and effusive.

Mary Kunz Goldman
The Buffalo News, October 2010

Oliveira has made a lot of appearances in Buffalo, and I am used to hearing him in person. In concert, he is gripping and a little frightening, with his shaved head, glower and intensity. On disc, even in a live recording, I was surprised to find he sounds gentler. Oliveira conducts and performs three Bach concertos here, and the sublime Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor. I have heard other performers dig into the music with more gusto. But then Oliveira has an intensity of his own, sailing through a melody with a rapt honesty. What ravishing music the Largo from that concerto is. Once I remember Buffalo’s Configuration Dance danced to it. The dance was beautiful, but I kept having to close my eyes, because the music can’t help but win out. Again Oliveira conquers with a light touch. Light, but intense. Eva Gruesser plays the other violin.

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