Bach, CPE Bach, WF Bach

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LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Sonatas for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord, BWV 1027-9. Sonata in G minor, Wq 88. Sonata in C minor
PERFORMER: Nobuko Imai (viola) Roland Pöntinen (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 454 449-2
Anyone unfamiliar with Bach’s sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord may recognise the expressive Adagio of the G minor work from its use in the film Truly, Madly, Deeply.


The viola da gamba coexisted with the cello for many years during Bach’s lifetime, and today these sonatas have been adopted by cellists, viola players and gambists alike. Imai and Pöntinen offer something of a compromise by playing on a modern viola and a copy of an 18th-century harpsichord – a combination that has much to offer in its contrast of dark and silver timbres, although at times Imai’s sonorous sound overpowers the delicate keyboard. Nonetheless, the two performers have a strong musical rapport, producing stylish, elegant accounts. Pöntinen is better known as a pianist, but his harpsichord playing is admirably neat and crisply articulated.


The disc also includes sonatas by WF and CPE – attractive works, though they pale by the side of Bach père. Prospective purchasers should consider the recordings by Savall and Koopman or Pandolfo and Alessandrini, where the veiled tone of the gamba produces a far more mysterious aura than the up-front viola. Kate Bolton