WORKS: Violin Sonatas, BWV 1014, 1015, 1016, 1017, 1018, 1019
PERFORMER: Fabio Biondi (violin)Rinaldo Alessandrini (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 111 OPS 30-127/128 DDD
Bach’s six sonatas for violin and harpsichord date from the Cöthen years, 1717-23, the period in which he also composed the Brandenburg concertos, the orchestral suites and the great solo masterpieces for violin and cello. If this illustrious array has outdazzled the sonatas, they remain attractive works and radical too in their allocation of an obbligato role to the harpsichord.
Biondi and Alessandrini enjoy good rapport, and the fast tempi they take at times, as in Sonata No. 3’s closing Allegro, can produce a dashing excitement. Elsewhere, particularly in the slow movements, they often seem to miss the music’s lilting spirit. In June I reviewed a captivating new performance of these sonatas by Maya Homburger and Malcolm Proud (Maya). This remains my first choice for three reasons: Homburger’s phrasing has a persuasive fluency that Biondi’s lacks; Proud’s harpsichord has the richer sonority; and the Maya recording includes two additional movements from an earlier version of Sonata No. 6. With just ninety minutes of music on two full-price CDs, the Opus 111 set represents scant value for money. Graham Lock