Notes and Editorial Reviews
"There’s much to be said for performing Bach’s concertos one to a part. What’s missed in contrast between solo and tutti is gained in clarity. And because even the subsidiary lines in Bach have such expressive force, to hear each of them played by a single stylish performer greatly enhances the overall impact. This effect is very strong on the Sonnerie disc, with Huggett directing robust, finely balanced performances of all four concertos. In the second movement of BWV1052, the expressive “orchestra” sometimes nearly obscures Huggett’s meditative, delicate solo line. She’s not always so modest, however; in the same concerto’s first movement the ascent over the open D string (track 1, after 6'00") is presented with great force –
the sense of effort is emphasised, rather than disguised. In BWV1041’s Andante, the tutti sections even show a touch of brutality, but this concerto’s outer movements demonstrate how beautifully these players can adopt a lightly poised, elegant style."
-- Duncan Druce, GRAMOPHONE
Violin Concertos: in d
(from BWV 1052);
Monica Huggett (vn), dir; Sonnerie (period instruments)
GAUDEAMUS 356 (61: 30)
From the evidence of his sonatas and partitas for violin solo, Johann Sebastian Bach may have been one of the greatest violinists of all time; but his violin concertos hardly reflect the prowess the sonatas demand. If they’ve never become repertoire staples, they’re not neglected either: most of the greatest violinists, including Heifetz, played and recorded them. Attempts to reconstruct other originals from versions for harpsichord have yielded highly interesting if not completely authentic results. Monica Huggett plays two of these in her collection for Gaudeamus: the Concerto in D Minor, reconstructed from the Harpsichord Concerto, BWV 1052, and the Concerto in G Minor, BWV 1056, which the notes identify as a likely transcription of an oboe concerto, either by Bach himself or by Telemann. The slow movement of the Concerto in D Minor recalls in melodic turns and phrases the ground-bass movements from the familiar A-Minor and E-Major Concertos, but the outer movements display a virtuosity at which those other concertos hardly hint: double stops in bariolage, for example, swirling like so many miniature tornadoes. Wiebke Thormählen’s notes suggest an origin in Vivaldi’s Italianate virtuosity, and in fact such technical exuberance seems more closely related to Vivaldi’s output than to Bach’s. Yet the music remains anchored stylistically, as mentioned, in Bach’s other concertos. The slow movement of the Concerto, RV 1056, sounds more piquant than poignant (in this kind of performance, it might not tempt the Tralfamadorians into Billy Pilgrim’s back yard; in the A-Minor Concerto’s slow movement, the ground bass recurrences actually sound jaunty); the finale’s tantalizingly buoyant.
Huggett doesn’t base her performance on textural experiments, as the Concerto in E Major reveals. She never draws gratuitously wheezy sonorities from her 1750s Dutch Cuypers School violin; and if the ensemble’s textures sound occasionally chunky, they suggest neither experiment nor mannerism. On modern instruments, perhaps only Daniel Hope with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (Warner 62545, 30:3) or Nigel Kennedy with the Berlin Philharmonic (EMI 57091, 24:4) can match its exuberance. The notes identify the slow movements of these two concertos as “improvisatory,” but Huggett doesn’t take them as opportunities to improvise, playing them “straight” and relying on their inherent expressiveness to provide all the improvisatory territory she might wish to explore.
While engineers have placed Huggett in the body of the rather small Sonnerie, through her command of the difficult passagework, she remains dominant. The ensemble also plays brilliantly, yet with subtle dynamic control that breathes life, for example, into the first movement of the Concerto based on BWV 1052—yet with tonal weight sufficient to lend gravity to the first movement of the more familiar Concerto, BWV 1056. Heartily recommended, especially to those seeking to push gently against the boundaries of traditional-instrument interpretations.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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