Bach: 6 Sonatas For Harpsichord And Violin, Bwv 1014-1019
Bach,J.s. / Koopman / Manson
Johann Sebastian Bach
Number of Discs:
1 Hours 39 Mins.
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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord. 2 Movements
Catherine Manson (vn); Ton Koopman (hpd)
CHALLENGE 72561 (2 CDs: 99: 33)
Characteristic features of Catherine Manson’s and Ton Koopman’s program of Johann Sebastian Bach’s six sonatas for violin and harpsichord emerge from the opening movement of the First Sonata, BWV 1014, among them Manson’s starchy period timbre, which some listeners may find unyielding and Koopman’s occasional addition of an ornament creating a highlight on the thick
textures’ surfaces (Manson also embellishes a line here and there). In the second movement,
, Manson maintains her aplomb in the midst of volleys of notes in the harpsichord. She engages in meditative conversation in the ensuing
and brings the work to a rousing conclusion in the
. The Sonata, BWV 1015, begins with a slow movement that features constant interweaving of the violin and harpsichord; Manson (appropriately) gives way on occasion to her partner, but she almost dominates the ensuing
, although she allows her rapid arpeggios toward the movement’s end to serve as a sort of accompaniment to the harpsichord’s running figuration. The duo makes of the final
a romp as exuberant as the busily chugging harpsichord part will allow, at the same time highlighting the ingenious imitations nearly concealed in those thick textures. The cantabile opening
of the Sonata, BWV 1016, with garlands of rapid-note passages that serve almost as written-out ornamentation, offers opportunities for a more relaxed lyricism, but some listeners may feel that the two performers have maintained a formality—one that, if not unattractive, seems at least unnecessary. In the jaunty
that follows, however, they seem to adopt a more ingratiating manner. Some of the severity of their reading of the opening movement reappears in the
Adagio ma non tanto
, but the final
, with its Italianate passagework for the violin (transferred with little loss of brilliance to Koopman’s right hand), revives the sense of conviviality.
The Sonata, BWV 1017, begins with a movement more than simply reminiscent of
from the composer’s
St. Matthew Passion,
here accompanied by a steady 16th-note motion in the harpsichord’s treble that makes the whole seem more clinking ice rather than mellifluous purity. Koopman adds ornaments to the opening of the next movement that impart extra energy. Manson generally limns a somewhat featureless landscape in this movement, but she adds dynamic nuances to long-held notes—and to shorter ones as well—that help to humanize her reading. More of that humanity emerges in the ensuing
, in which, as in the first movement, Koopman accompanies the violin part—which in this case Manson effectively leads into her instrument’s lower registers—in near-steady motion, this time triplets. In the finale, Koopman and Manson bandy about 16th-note groups, creating a series of bright—if not quite buoyant—interchanges. The Fourth Sonata, BWV 1018, opens with a dark-toned
, in which Manson draws almost viola-like comments from her instrument. In this movement and in the next, a complex imitative dialogue, Manson and Koopman extend their interpretive range far beyond the short-term goal of creating intelligible, expressive counterpoint. They exchange ideas so fluidly in the
that although neither the violin with its repeated double-stops nor the harpsichord with its 32nd-note figures seems truly melodic, both instruments fuse in a lyrical whole. They also generate a great deal of interest from the finale’s syncopations and chromatic lines. The last of the sonatas, BWV 1019, appears here in its version with an
harpsichord solo, an
, and a final fifth-movement
—although Manson and Koopman have also included two movements that Bach inserted in later versions of the sonata. In the opening
, they’re straightforwardly cheerful, leaving bleaker emotional landscapes far behind, and the rather continuous 16th-note motion hardly suggests the “sewing machine” to which the composer’s music has often been compared by detractors. They also seem to feel at home in the
, with its dialogue and varied rhythmic patterns. Koopman treads resolutely through the harpsichord solo, arriving at an
that the duo endows with slinky seductiveness. They bring the set to a close with a heady reading of an
(not the first movement repeated).
Those who admire Koopman and Manson will no doubt be excited to encounter their collaboration in these sonatas, but others may find them too straightforward (even if not quite arid) and may prefer James Ehnes’s set on Analekta 2 9829 (
35:2) and Analekta 2 9830 (Fanfare 34:6). There’s still a great deal to enjoy in their set, which, therefore, should recommend it heartily to the duo’s admirers.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Very moving July 12, 2014
By B. Gholz (Falls Church, VA) See All My Reviews
"This performance, compared to the Leonhardt performance, is more rapidly flowing but equally expressive. I love them both."