Notes and Editorial Reviews
Sonatas for viola da gamba: in G,
; in D,
; in g,
; in Eb,
. Suite for solo cello, No. 5 in c,
. Italian Concerto,
Emmanuelle Guigues (vdg); Bruno Procopio (hpd)
class="ARIAL12"> PARATY 307.112 (60:39)
As a composer of chamber music, Johann Sebastian Bach was less prolific than his friend Georg Philipp Telemann, partly because this was considered somewhat ancillary to his main occupation as a church musician. The exception was the six-year period he spent as a court composer in Cöthen, where vocal music took second place, and Bach was able to explore a range of styles not connected with the music of the church.
The viola da gamba was one of the ubiquitous instruments of the Baroque period, a versatile member of the continuo ensemble but also capable of considerable expression as a solo instrument. In his sixth
concerto, Bach uses a pair to offset the darker colors of his solo violas, and in the cantatas, solos for the gamba are not infrequent, taking advantage of its ability to blend well with the voice. The three sonatas with harpsichord are thus homage to the instrument, demonstrating its manifold capabilities. It is not known precisely when they were written. Most likely, they date from his Cöthen years, but the occasionally intricate counterpoint and imitation between the gamba and harpsichord seem to reflect a later period in Leipzig. The opening movement of the G-Minor sonata certainly sounds like the
that got away, but given the consistency in style throughout his life, that may or may not be an indication of date of composition. Whatever the date, there can be no doubt that these works are a major part of the repertory, having been often recorded before. The Italian Concerto is Bach’s essay in the Italian style, published in 1735. The two remaining works are really for other instruments, the Suite for Solo Cello and a transcription of the Siciliano from the Flute Sonata, BWV 1031.
Not much needs to be said about the music, since these are no strangers to the repertory, even in transcriptions or performances on other instruments (mainly the cello for the gamba sonatas). Gambist Emmanuelle Guigues gives a solid and stately rendition, with a warm, sonorous tone. Bruno Procopio accompanies her deftly on the harpsichord, emerging as necessary, such as in the
of the D-Minor sonata, to engage in a nicely nuanced dialogue between the instruments. These are good, solid performances, though I don’t find them rising significantly above others, such as Jonathan Manson and Trevor Pinnock’s more energetic version from 2006. On the other hand, the polish of Guigues and Procopio is evident throughout. My advice is that, if you don’t own a copy of the gamba sonatas yet, this one will fill that niche nicely.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
Italian Concerto, BWV 971 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Bruno Procopio (Harpsichord)
Written: 1735; Leipzig, Germany
Date of Recording: 06/2007
Venue: Musée de Beaux-Arts de Chartres, France
Length: 11 Minutes 36 Secs.
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