BACH Orchestral Suite in a, BWV 1067. Fugue in g. Viola Concerto, BWV 1053, 169, 49. Goldberg Variations: Overture, Four Variations, and Aria • Antoinette Lohmann (vn, va, cond); Furor Musicus (period instruments) • EDITION LILAC 1109102 (72:54)
Only the Viola Concerto is identified as a premiere recording, but chances are you haven’t heard any of these worksRead more as presented here. The disc title, Reconstructions and Transcriptions for Strings, tells you what to expect. The Fugue and the Variations are keyboard compositions, of course. Whether Bach ever played them with a string ensemble is immaterial; he would have if he’d had a reason to do so. The Fugue especially is a natural candidate for transcription. Dmitry Sitkovetsky transcribed the complete Goldberg Variations for string trio and recorded it years ago on vinyl. Antoinette Lohmann’s version is not complete and more varied in instrumentation: five instruments for the Overture, two for Variation VII, three for Variations XXI and XXV, and four for the concluding Aria. Wait, you say, the Goldbergs have no overture; they begin and end with the Aria. True, but Lohmann uses Variation XXVIII, set in the form of a French overture, which serves that function in Lohmann’s arrangement. It’s no substitute for the complete score, but Lohmann offers a listenable glimpse of it.
The Orchestral Suite is possibly the closest Lohmann gets to authenticity. It’s the Flute Suite (No.2), transposed down a step and given to the violin. There has been speculation that the flute may not have been Bach’s first choice as the solo instrument. The violin would seem to be the logical first choice, though Gonzalo X. Ruiz, who successfully recorded an oboe version for Avie, argues that the solo part, even transposed, plays awkwardly on the violin but comfortably on his instrument. However, there are more violinists out there than oboists, so Lohmann, though evidently not the first to record it, is apt to have more competition than Ruiz. Her performance begins with an ominous rush—more like a fog—of unarticulated string sound that hints of trouble ahead, but things quickly calm down and evolve into an enjoyable performance.
The most valuable component of the program may be the Viola Concerto. When Bach played an orchestral instrument, he usually chose the viola, but not necessarily as a soloist. He liked to be in the middle of things, and face it, there’s no more middling part in the orchestra than the viola’s. The reconstruction is a composite work, borrowing from versions of the second and third movements in cantatas 169 and 49. Most researchers seem to think that BWV 1053 began as an oboe concerto, and it’s frequently recorded as such. There are more violists out there, too, than oboe players, but not more soloists, so the concerto will likely remain identified with the ill wind. Still, violists can dream, and what better dream than to have one’s own concerto by Bach. Violists should be delighted to have this option. Lohmann makes a strong case for it.
Overall, an interesting disc, but not an essential one—unless you happen to be a budding viola virtuoso.
J.S. Bach Reconstructions and Transcriptions for July 3, 2013By Henry A. See All My Reviews"J.S. Bach Reconstructions and Transcriptions for Strings is an interesting album that deserves some attention. Unlike the famous transcriptions of the Emerson and Julliard quartets, this CD from Antoinette Lohmann and Furor Musicus focuses on works that have or could have originally existed for strings. The result is an academically intriguing recording that features top-notch performing. The first and third pieces on this disc are reconstructions of Bach staples that reflect how that composer may have originally conceived them The second piece is an unorthodox combination two editions of a fugue, and the final tracks are straight transcriptions of selections from the Goldberg Variations. Orchestral Suite 2, BWV 1067 is a work that is hotly debated amongst Bach scholars. An examination of the score will show a seemingly superfluous flute line (one which doubles the first violin for virtually the entire work), notational errors, and poor voice-leading. Lohmann attributes these to poor copies of the original manuscript, which has not survived the passage of time. She goes on to suggest that the notional errors and voice-leading may be cause to believe that the original version of this work may have been a whole step lower. All of these discrepancies in the original make a strong case for a strings only recording in A minor, Lohmann says. Though it is sure to upset some flautist, this recording provides interesting insight into what this piece might have originally sounded like. Following Orchestral Suite No. 2 is a fascinating transcription that combines Fugue BWV 539 and 1001. Bach aficionados will be quick to point out that these fugues are actually one and the same. BWV 539 is written for the organ, while Fugue BWV 1001 is the second movement from Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor. What Lohmann and her colleagues have done is transpose the organ edition from D minor to that of the solo violin edition. They then divided the lines of the organ part amongst five string players. The result is a timbre similar to BWV 1001, but with greater clarity and independence of line. The third piece on the album is sure to delight violist everywhere. It is a reconstruction of BWV 1053, set for solo viola and strings. Though this composition is widely known as a harpsichord concerto, Lohmann explains that there is a surviving E flat orchestral accompaniment for an unspecified alto solo instrument. Lohmann, a violist herself, took this as an opportunity to explore idea that Bach, also a violist and known to lead ensembles from that position, may have written the concerto for himself. Whatever Bach's true intentions may have been, Lohmann's performance makes a serious case for a viola edition of this famous concerto. The final recording on this album is also the most disappointing. Following three imaginative settings of Bach's music is a lackluster transcription of the Goldberg Variations. Furthermore, it is not even a complete performance; rather, it is six selections from the monumental work. While the performing is superb, I question the merit of including the piece at all. At last check, there were nearly 1000 recording of the Goldberg's available on Amazon, many of them being quite unimaginative. I would have much rather seen this album rounded out by some lesser-know keyboard work or other instrumental reconstruction. With the exception of the Goldberg filler, this is a fascinating album that I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know. The performances captured on the disc are of the highest quality. Both the seasoned and causal listener will enjoy this delightful album from Furor Musicus."Report Abuse