Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Sonatas: in b; in E. Flute Sonatas: in g; in b. Flute Sonata in E?: Siciliano
Lara St. John (vn); Marie-Pierre Langlamet (hp)
ANCALAGON ANC 139 (SACD: 64:39)
Listening to these works performed with a harp instead of a harpsichord accompanying the violin takes getting used to. The harp does not have the same percussive effect as the harpsichord, and much of the rhythm from the bass seems to be missing. Harp notes tend to blend, while each harpsichord note is quite distinct from the next. That is
not to fault the harpist. She is an excellent player. It’s just that her instrument’s sound is different from the keyboard to which we have become accustomed in these sonatas. Looking back at common practices in Bach’s own time, we see that music written for one instrument was often transcribed for another. Bach himself did that quite often in order to use the players present at any one time. On this Ancalagon disc, French-born harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet, a member of the Berlin Philharmonic since 1993 who also teaches at the Karajan Academy of Berlin’s University of the Arts, plays with Canadian violinist Lara St. John who operates the recording label. St. John says she prefers playing with the harp instead of the keyboard because it is more subtle. It’s true that you do hear more of St. John’s beautiful 1779 Guadagnini violin when she plays with the harp. The balance is quite different, and on this disc the harp is not equal in strength of tone. The playing of these two musicians is excellent, however. Each has a fine technique and great beauty of tone.
St. John and Langlamet play the sonatas in chronological order. They begin with the Sonata in B Minor, BWV 1014, and the Sonata in E Major, BWV 1016, both of which were written for violin and harpsichord. They continue with three works written for flute and harpsichord, the Sonata in G Minor, BWV 1020; the Sonata in B Minor, BWV 1030; and the Siciliana movement from the Sonata in E?-Major, BWV 1031. The G-Minor Sonata might be by Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach or even someone else. The E?-Major Sonata is thought to be by the elder Bach, although it is not absolutely certain. At any rate these flute and harpsichord pieces do well when played on the harp and violin. St. John and Langlamet play them at a moderate pace, so the entire disc has a relaxed feel. This disc is good background music for a spring garden party or something of a pastoral nature. The sound is full-bodied and just live enough to catch all the bloom on the harp notes, giving you the feeling of being in a small concert hall. If there is any complaint it is that the violin is a bit on the close side, but it is a wonderful instrument with copious overtones. Although I prefer to hear these sonatas accompanied by a keyboard, many listeners may enjoy the harp.
FANFARE: Maria Nockin
Works on This Recording
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