Bach: Viola da Gamba Sonatas, BWV 1027-9; Capriccios, BWV 992-3

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Viola da Gamba Sonatas, BWV 1027-9; Capriccios, BWV 992-3
PERFORMER: Jaap ter Linden (viola da gamba), Richard Egarr (harpsichord)
Bach’s three sonatas for viola da gamba with obbligato harpsichord have been popular with performers and audiences alike since the early Fifties when the late August Wenzinger made his first of two recordings for DG Archiv. At the time of writing there are 26 currently available versions to choose from, of which about two-thirds are played with gamba and harpsichord and the remainder with cello and piano. While I often enjoy my solo Bach keyboard music played on a piano, my enthusiasm by-and-large does not extend to the concerted chamber music. Even if Bach originally had other instruments in mind for this music there is no doubt that the plaintive sound of the gamba is peculiarly well-suited to its expressive lyricism. That dimension is not lost on Jaap ter Linden, whose sensitive playing and feeling for melodic line are a constant pleasure. The centrally placed alto-tenor range of the gamba strand is framed by the treble and bass voices of the harpsichord in each of the three Sonatas. Here Richard Egarr provides a stylish and well balanced partnership, the whole resulting in an expressive, graceful and often animated dialogue. Yes, on reflection and on more than one encounter, this playing affords enormous pleasure, the programme further benefiting from two of Bach’s youthful solo harpsichord Capriccios – one of them is that ‘on the departure of a beloved brother’, the other an athletic fugue – being interspersed with the Sonatas. Laurence Dreyfus (gamba) and Ketil Haugsand (harpsichord) remain my first choice, but the newcomers give them a very good run for their money. Nicholas Anderson