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An Imaginary Meeting (Bach and Handel)

Lina Tur Bonet (violin), Dani Espasa (harpsichord) (Aparté)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

An Imaginary Meeting
JS Bach: Sonatas Nos 4-6, BWV 1017-19; Handel: Sonata in D, HWV 371; Sonata in D minor, HWV 359a
Lina Tur Bonet (violin), Dani Espasa (harpsichord)
Aparté AP219   73:47 mins

Bach and Handel were born within a month and 100 miles or so of each other and were two of the leading musicians of their time in Germany. But, despite a couple of near-misses, they never met. If they had succeeded in arranging a rendezvous, what music might they have played (a question not addressed in a booklet note of airy metaphysics and irrelevant details)? Given their backgrounds as keyboard players, it seems likely that they would have improvised on the harpsichord to and with each other. But this Spanish-produced disc postulates that Bach would have got his violin out, and they would have played through three of Bach’s sonatas with obbligato (written-out) harpsichord parts, and two of Handel’s with continuo, including the fine Sonata in D major – written just within Bach’s lifetime!

The results aren’t entirely successful. The players are accomplished performers with a sense of teamwork, and they’re clearly recorded. The harpsichordist generates a strong pulse, though some slow tempos tend to drag. The violinist’s line often seems lacking in shape and direction, and some of her ornamentation sounds awkwardly contrived – though there are also places, such as the second movement of Bach’s Sonata No. 5, where the two exchange decorations with what sounds like joyous spontaneity. Overall, for the Bach sonatas which make up the bulk of the disc, I’d suggest going for the set by Rachel Podger and Trevor Pinnock on Channel Classics and forgetting about the ‘what if’ scenario.

Anthony Burton