Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Sonatas nos. 6, 7 8 & 9

Suites nos. 1, 4 & 6
Pavlo Beznosiuk (baroque violin) with continuo.
Etcetera KTC 1224 [69 mins] (PGW)

It can be a little dispiriting to see the phrase Volume One on a CD of little known music by relatively unknown composers. Confidence in the project (perhaps Vol. 2 has already been recorded?) is shown here by the notes about these two German composers, which give detail about some other of the twelve Scherzi da violono solo con il basso continuo sonatas (1676) of Johann Jacob Walther (c.1650-1717), but not of those included in this Volume! They are in strings of short, usually unrelated, sections and have extravagant chordal writing, though without scordatura (cp. The more inspired - to my ears - Biber).

Johann Paul Westhoff (1656-1705) was the first composer of a whole collection of unaccompanied violin music and these Suites, published in 1696, are more elaborately chordal and polyphonic than those of Bach, who often preferred to suggest polyphony. The six suites are laid out in an ascending key pattern. They are pleasing, but I found those with accompaniment (theorbo, bass viol, harpsichord and chamber organ) made for richer listening.

There is no evidence that Bach actually knew these collections. The modern revival of the baroque violin has given a whole large repertoire of quirky, unpredictable music, 'brilliant, witty and heartfelt by turns' (Peter Holman) a new lease of life. It is music which gives me consistent pleasure, and some examples should be in all collections, though this would not be a very first choice.

The music is all well played, though just a little short of inspired, I felt. It is somewhat cautious and rarely takes wing. Recording and documentation are entirely satisfactory.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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