April 2004
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Day April 23, 2004

The Best Brandenburg Concertos…a 17 year saga

I received a package in the mail today, which contained two CD’s and a note, from an old friend of mine who lives in Tucson and runs Eliot Books. The note reads (in part):

Enclosed find the Brandenburgs that I mentioned something like 17 years ago. They are the best. F**k the rest.

The story begins in the summer of 1987, at the University of Washington’s Archaeological Field School on San Juan Island. My friend was a staff member, and I was a student on the field school. He, in his wisdom, had brought a high-quality CD player and CD collection to the island, and we discovered mutual interests in classical music, partying our way around the island, and honing our expertise in “field bartending.” At the time, his Bach collection was serious and well-stocked, except for an obvious hole with the Brandenburg Concertos. His answer was that he wouldn’t buy the Brandenburgs until he found the perfect recording. Pinnock, Hogwood, all good conductors, all good recordings, but the best was an elusive recording by Karl Ristenpart. It remained elusive, and my friend’s collection lacked a copy of the Brandenburgs, all these years.

Until now. He found the Ristenpart recordings in France, and waited 9 months for the boxed set to be shipped to the United States. And today, I got an envelope with the Brandenburgs, as performed by Karl Ristenpart and the Saar Chamber Orchestra in 1960. What an amazing pleasure it is to hear them, after 17 years of anticipation.