Bach: Sonatas for Gamba and Harpsichord, BWV 1027, 1028, 1029

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LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Sonatas for Gamba and Harpsichord, BWV 1027, 1028, 1029
PERFORMER: Pieter Wispelwey (violoncello piccolo), Richard Egarr (harpsichord, organ, fortepiano), Daniel Yeadon (cello)
Bach was an inveterate borrower, arranger and transcriber of his own music. Indeed, of these three gamba sonatas, the first began as a trio for two flutes and continuo, the last is possibly the ghost of a lost concerto. All compress a trio texture onto keyboard (playing bass and one upper part) and solo gamba. Why not therefore, as in this extraordinary recording, add an extra cello to clarify the bass line and strengthen the upper keyboard part on organ – or even fortepiano? Sometimes it works – magnificently. The first allegro of BWV1027 positively gleams with bright organ right hand matching the cello, more full-bodied than Bach’s intended gamba. In BWV1028, Egarr plays neither Bach’s specified harpsichord nor a modern grand – but an anachronistic fortepiano – a revelation in phrasing and subtly matched dynamics.


Often though it becomes clear that Bach’s original judgement should be trusted. The additional cello muddies textures; it emphasises inversions of harmony where the ear would be deceived by harpsichord alone rising above the solo gamba; its additional weight obscures Bach’s already overpowered keyboard treble.


Elsewhere, Egarr plays two instruments at once, Wispelwey dances through transcriptions from keyboard music… So – like it or hate it – don’t miss it! George Pratt