> BACH Trio Sonatas [KM]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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RECORDING OF THE MONTH



Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Trio Sonatas

No.1 in F major (BWV525);
No.2 in C minor (BWV526);
No.3 in D minor (BWV527);
No.4 in E minor (BWV528);
No.5 in C major (BWV529);
No.6 in G major (BWV530)
London Baroque
Ingrid Seifert, violin; Richard Gwilt, violin / viola; Charles Medlam, violoncello; Terence Charlston, harpsichord / organ.
Rec: October - November 2001, St. Martin’s, East Woodhay, Hampshire, England.
BIS CD-1345 [74.38]


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Bach’s trio sonatas for organ are among his finest works. These pearls are small-scale sonatas in three movements, which feature some of the most delicate counterpoint in all of Bach’s works (outside his fugues). Written for three ‘voices’, two on the keyboard and one on the pedals, they offer a vast horizon of carefully-sculpted melodies.

Unlike many of Bach’s organ works, these are not based on religious hymns, nor are they as impenetrable as some of his more complex fugues. These six suites are full of joy and energy, and are, perhaps, some of the happiest music Bach wrote.

London Baroque presents a new recording of the trio sonatas arranged (by Richard Gwilt) for their four-member ensemble. While the notes to this disc spend a great deal of time justifying the idea of transcribing such works, this defense is no longer necessary. The music speaks for itself.

From the very first notes on this disc, one can hear the fine quality of the performance and the energy the musicians infuse into this recording. The opening movement of the F major sonata is played with brio and verve, and comes alive at a tempo which may seem surprising at first (a bit faster than is usual on the organ), but which fits it perfectly. All of the fast movements in these works feature this energy and drive, while the slow movements, such as the slightly fugal lento of the G major sonata, are highly introspective and subtle.

London Baroque play with such a perfect texture that this music seems to have been written for their ensemble. The balance among the instruments is almost perfect, and the music comes through in excellent harmony.

The sound of the ensemble has some minor flaws - a slightly harsh sounding violin in the C major sonata, especially in the largo, and the occasional passage that is a bit too dense. But overall, London Baroque is very close to perfection when they play this delicate music. One choice that may not be ideal is the use of organ for the continuo of two of the sonatas and harpsichord for the other four. While both sound excellent, there is a lack of unity among the works for this reason. Perhaps if the sonatas alternated between the organ and harpsichord, or if they all used one or the other, this unity would be more solid.

This fine recording is certainly one of the best Bach discs of the year. London Baroque confirm their qualities as not only sensitive and well-balanced, but also creative in these fine transcriptions. This is an essential recording for Bach lovers, who will find new worlds of feeling in music that is certainly familiar.


Kirk McElhearn


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