Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Concertos: in d
(after BWV 1052);
(after BWV 1056);
Amandine Beyer (vn, cond); Gli Incogniti (period instruments)
ZIG ZAG 70501 (57:04)
The idea of reconstituting violin concertos that Bach supposedly transcribed as the harpsichord concertos that have
come down to us may hardly be a new one, but Amandine Beyer brings to these restorations an energetic enthusiasm that converts what could be dreary counterpoint into pure effervescence. Her notes to the collection explain her rationale, referring to the existence of transcriptions of the two violin concertos (in A Minor and E Major), to Bach’s practice of adapting his own works for other instruments, and to the highly violinistic solo parts of the harpsichord concertos, the one in G Minor (which, she says, requires “virtually no modification” and the one in D Minor, which she has reworked using “numerous sources”—in her notes she gives the D-Minor Concerto as BWV 1056 and the G Minor Concerto as BWV 1052, a numeration which appears in both the French and English versions). Szigeti and Perlman have played the Concerto in G Minor, and Monica Huggett played all four with Sonnerie on Gaudeamus 356, 30:6. But, as Beyer points out, artistic decisions remain, and the process still involves some reconceptualization.
The Concerto in D Minor makes considerable violinistic demands, appearing almost as a virtuoso work, with swirling figuration in the outer movements, more in the manner of the violin part in the
Fourth Brandenburg Concerto
than that of the familiar violin concertos in A Minor and E Major. Beyer sounds brilliant, emerging from her small ensemble more by virtue of her virtuosity than of any greater tonal projection (she addresses the problems of balance in these chamber concertos in her notes). The Concerto in G Minor, on the other hand, seems closer to the canonical ones in its demands. If Beyer seems to take the first movement deliberately, she’s quicker than Huggett; her cantilena in the second pours slowly, like honey, over a pizzicato accompaniment in the slow movement; while the third movement returns to the contrapuntal bustle she set in motion in the D-Minor Concerto. Articulated thumping garnishes this movement with unexpected wit.
Of the two traditional concertos, the E Major receives similar treatment: the first movement chugs with the energy of a highballing steam engine, though with considerably more nuance than the metaphor (or the limited dynamic markings might suggest). The energy and nuance convert passages that might have sounded like a sewing machine with blinders in a performance by even so enlightened a violinist as David Oistrakh into a celebratory dance. The smaller forces allow for a dialogue in the middle section between more equal tonal forces than that allowed by the frequently encountered single violinist conversing with a large string body supported discretely by a harpsichord. If the slow movement adapts less well—to become, in fact, less searching—to this more intimate setting, that may be due in part to the rather quick tempo Beyer and the ensemble have chosen. The finale returns to the playful, lambent alertness of the opening movement. The A-Minor Concerto enjoys the same invigorating treatment that soloist and ensemble accorded to the one in E Major. Unfortunately, what seem like muddy rhythmic passages disturb the exuberant dynamic arches at the center of the first movement; the second movement, with a ground bass like that of the E-Major Concerto, integrates perhaps better into this less ponderous musical ethos.
The engineers seem to have understood the musical philosophy that Beyer adumbrates in the notes and create a coherent musical impression from the performances themselves and from the sounds of the instruments, most of them made no more than a dozen years ago, which, though transparent in sound and crisp in articulation, never wheeze or grow acidulous. Strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in D minor, BWV 1052 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Amandine Beyer (Violin)
Written: circa 1738-1739; Leipzig, Germany
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