Walther, Westhoff

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COMPOSERS: Walther,Westhoff
LABELS: Etcetera
WORKS: Scherzi da violino solo con il basso continuo:Sonatas No. 6; Sonatas No. 7; Sonatas No. 8; Sonatas No. 9
PERFORMER: Pavlo Beznosiuk (violin), Paula Chateauneuf (theorbo), Richard Tunnicliffe (bass viol), Timothy Roberts (harpsichord, chamber organ)
Johann Jakob Walther and Johann Paul Westhoff have been cited as possible influences on Bach’s solo violin music. Westhoff is perhaps the more likely candidate; he published what is thought to be the first collection of suites for unaccompanied violin, in 1696, and he was at Weimar in 1703, the time of Bach’s first appointment there. Still, we have no direct evidence that Bach knew his suites and, as Peter Holman notes in the CD booklet, Bach’s music differs markedly from that of Walther and Westhoff, representatives of the 17th-century German tradition of violin extravagance.


Certainly Walther’s 1676 Scherzi (for violin and bass continuo) recall contemporaries such as Biber and Schmelzer in their virtuosic flourishes, declamatory lyricism and programmatic touches, like the cuckoo-calls that run through Sonata No. 9. Elsewhere Walther opts mostly for episodic form, each sonata comprising a single ‘patchwork’ movement of contrasting elements. While the six Scherzi here prove highly entertaining, the three Westhoff suites seem rather dry in comparison (the remainder of each set will presumably be issued in a second volume). Pavlo Beznosiuk’s diffident approach may be partly to blame. Though he plays with finesse and technical adroitness, a fierier advocacy could have made this intriguing music absolutely riveting. Graham Lock