Bach: Six Trio Sonatas Bwv 525-530 / Arion
Johann Sebastian Bach
Number of Discs:
1 Hours 8 Mins.
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Notes and Editorial Reviews
BACH Trio Sonatas, BWV 525–530: No. 1 in G; No. 2 in e; No. 3 in d; No. 4 in a; No. 5 in D; No. 6 in C - Arion Ens (period instruments) - ANALEKTA 23086 (67.38)
According to Johann Nikolaus Forkel, Johann Sebastian Bach’s first biographer, the six trio sonatas for keyboard were penned for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, so that he might improve the flexibility, coordination, and accuracy of his playing. However, even though they are scored on three individual staves and generally considered the provenance of organists, there is no clear evidence for what instrument they were written. Admittedly, the manuscript indicates “à 2 Clav. e Pedal,” but since Bach owned at least one harpsichord with a pedal board, it is entirely
possible that the sonatas were written for this instrument and not the organ on which they are almost universally offered today.
With their three distinct voices, these sonatas are not unique in Bach’s output for keyboard (there are several other keyboard compositions—chorale preludes to be exact—that exist in raiment traditionally thought to be for organ). In their original form, the trio sonatas readily lend themselves to transcription and—after some minor alterations in the voicing in the upper parts—result in satisfying and convincing adaptations for a standard Baroque chamber ensemble of two melody instruments and a continuo group of cello or viola da gamba and harpsichord or organ. Such transcriptions were far from unusual for Bach and his contemporaries. Composers in the 18th century did not hesitate to recycle their own music or that of other composers when necessary or appropriate. Indeed, more than half of the 18 movements that make up these six works were taken from Bach’s earlier works and portions of the music indigenous to these works would find their way into future compositions.
Always interested in what was transpiring musically in other parts of the continent and adapting the best ideas for his own use, Bach chose to emulate established Italian models for two melody instruments and bass and created a half-dozen works whose craftsmanship easily outdistances any of his competition. He intricately plaited the counterpoint between the two upper voices with a deftness and mastery recalling his two- and three-part inventions. The melodic lines engage in dialogue, exchange thematic material, and constantly interweave, producing an elegant colloquy. Beneath this, one finds a sturdy, versatile bass line that is consummately crafted to complement the melodic goings-on that lie above.
These chamber music adaptations have been transposed from the original tonalities to facilitate execution, a procedure frequently employed by Bach when he was working with transcriptions. The Arion Ensemble—flute, violin, cello/viola da gamba, and harpsichord—is an extremely adept and polished Canadian period-instruments group that performs with style and élan. Their touch is light but never vacuous or shallow; instead, it reveals a highly successful blend of the academic with the musical in an exceptionally desirable way. The expected norms of the era are reflected via requisite ornamentation, but it is supplied in a way that is tasteful, never excessive. The entire disc was recorded in textbook sound, with aural warmth and an intimacy of ensemble that befit the nature of the music.
These are beautifully played and thoroughly convincing adaptations leading me to believe that if one lacked knowledge of the original keyboard versions, they might assume these to be the work of Bach himself. This is a release that should occupy a place of honor on the shelf of every Bach lover.
Michael Carter, FANFARE
Works on This Recording
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Arion's recording of Bach's Trio Sonata's is outs April 8, 2014
By Olukunle Owolabi (Wayne, PA) See All My Reviews
"I love this CD! I've been listening to it non-stop! Although I am an organist, I almost prefer this chamber ensemble version of the Bach Trio Sonata's: the music is light, elegant, and very happy. Baroque music enthusiasts will certainly enjoy this delightful album!"