WORKS: Violin Sonatas, BWV 1014, 1015, 1016, 1017, 1018, 1019, 1019a, 1021 & 1023
PERFORMER: Rachel Podger (violin), Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord), Jonathan Manson (viola da gamba)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 14798
The Bach anniversary year 2000 generated an astonishing number of CD issues, new and old. As it drew to a close, Rachel Podger and Trevor Pinnock brought up the rearguard with spirited, clearly defined and sometimes lyrical performances of Bach’s six sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord. And, in addition, like most of the rival versions of recent times, they have included the two sonatas for violin and continuo (BWV 1021 and 1023) attributed to Bach, but whose authenticity remains insecure. No matter, for they are interesting pieces whose structure offers fruitful contrasts in the present context. The six sonatas with obbligato harpsichord are, in fact, trios in which the violin and right hand of the keyboard supply the first and second melody lines, while the keyboard left hand provides the bass. A close musical rapport between the players is therefore of the essence. Podger and Pinnock seldom disappoint us in this respect or, indeed, in many others. Faster movements are full of vitality, yet never pushed along at injudicious or inexpressive tempi, slower ones melodically well-sustained, sometimes contemplative, as in the short but tender Largo of the G major Sonata (BWV 1019), and deeply felt.
Beside this shared sensibility, the fluent, idiomatic partnership of Lucy van Dael and Bob van Asperen nevertheless seems prosaic; for, unlike Podger and Pinnock, they do not discover the expressive riches of this admittedly elusive repertoire. My only doubt concerning the former lies in the close recorded sound balance which emphasises clarity too much at the expense of tonal warmth. Rival versions by Elizabeth Blumenstock and John Butt (Harmonia Mundi), and Maya Homburger and Malcolm Proud (Maya) are more successful in this respect, providing strong musical competition as well. Nicholas Anderson