LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: Violin Sonatas, BWV 1014, 1015, 1016, 1017, 1018, 1019, 1021 & 1023
PERFORMER: John Holloway (violin), Davitt Moroney (harpsichord, chamber organ), Susan Sheppard (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: VBD 5 61650 2 Reissue (1989)
In 1997 Andrew Manze gave us a brilliant account of Bach’s violin concertos. Now he’s worked similar magic on the sonatas, splendidly aided by Richard Egarr (and, on four pieces, Jaap ter Linden). Deploying formidable technique, Manze and Egarr expertly tease out the music’s subtleties, while their improvisatory approach brings the works vibrantly to life – cantabile adagios sing out in tender passion, complex allegros come decked with spry exuberance.
The two discs are generously filled: six (trio) sonatas, BWV 1014-19; four movements from earlier versions of BWV 1019; three sonatas for violin and continuo, BWV 1021, 1023, 1024; Manze’s transcription for solo violin of the organ toccata and fugue, BWV 565 (which, together with BWV 1015, 1019, 1021 and 1024, appeared on the January cover disc). This bounty is further enhanced by the beautifully balanced sound, but it’s the superlative performances that make this my choice for benchmark.
In comparison, Rônez and Kubitschek seem gauche, though they’re not helped by a resonant acoustic and a balance that has the violin forward, sounding harsh at times, while the harpsichord is often reduced to a tinkly blur. Further drawbacks: the booklet contains no information about the music, and these two full-price CDs offer less than 95 minutes of music – BWV 1014-19 is all you get.
The Holloway-Moroney budget-price discs add BWV 1019’s earlier movements, plus BWV 1021 and 1023, the latter pair performed with an attractive continuo of chamber organ and cello. However, also at budget price, the Blumenstock-Butt set (Harmonia Mundi) offers the same material, but played with greater sensitivity, and in a more spacious acoustic. Graham Lock