JS Bach: Sonatas for Harpsichord and Violin

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LABELS: Challenge Classics
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach: Sonatas for Harpsichord and Violin
WORKS: Six Sonatas for Harpsichord and Violin, BWV 1014-1019
PERFORMER: catherine Manson (violin), Ton Koopman (harpsichord)


These Bach Sonatas are not simply trio sonatas compressed on to two instruments – violin, harpsichord right-hand and bass: they are truly revolutionary. BWV 1014 opens with harpsichord alone, before the violin enters with a totally independent line, the two barely acknowledging each other. In BWV 1015, harpsichord stalks the violin in a canon so fluent that the exact imitation between the lines is barely noticeable. Elsewhere, (BWV 1018), harpsichord engages in a three-part invention, complete in itself, with meditating violin.

From the very start of BWV 1014, you sense this highly distinguished duo’s sense of wonder at Bach’s inventiveness: Catherine Manson’s long-held opening note is hushed, virtually inaudible at first above the patterned figuration of the harpsichord. She creates a beautiful legato line above the harpsichord’s broken-chord accompaniment opening BWV 1017. Fast movements, too, have a dancing energy. Recording balance, often a problem with violin overpowering harpsichord, is splendidly managed. One recurring niggle is Manson’s tendency to chop up lines by squeezing out longer notes, the exact opposite of Koopman’s skilful sustaining of short-lived harpsichord sound.


George Pratt