Bach: Viola da gamba Sonatas, BWV 1019 & 1027, 1028, 1029

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Viola da gamba Sonatas, BWV 1019 & 1027, 1028, 1029
PERFORMER: Juan Manuel Quintana (viola da gamba), Céline Frisch (harpsichord)
There is a rich assortment of currently available recordings of Bach’s three sonatas for viola da gamba and obbligato harpsichord. Most are played on Bach’s specified instruments but there are a few featuring cello, either partnered by harpsichord or piano. So subtle is Bach’s texture in these pieces, where the gamba line floats between the treble and bass keyboard strands, providing a distinct, often melancholy voice in the alto-tenor range, that only the pairing of a bass viol with harpsichord does it full justice. Juan Manuel Quintana and Céline Frisch sustain an evenly balanced, virtuosic partnership which allows us to hear a myriad of small, precious details in the music. Sometimes I felt a longing for a little bit more in the way of lyricism; there is an occasional stiffness in the slow movements and an expressive intensity which seems, every now and then, a shade severe. But the elegiac poetry of the Adagio of the G minor Sonata does not elude these players, even if their chosen tempo is on the brisk side. In consideration of this, however, and of matters concerning the well moderated inflections of unhurried, civilised dialogue, my first choice remains Laurence Dreyfus and Ketil Haugsand (Simax). Nicholas Anderson