The Six Trio Sonatas, written by Bach between 1727 and 1731, are very close to being my favourite pieces of music; the actual order of my top ten isn’t set in stone. They are so varied and expressive, virtuosic in places, melancholic in others. They have been performed by many different instrumental combinations which all highlight different aspects of these remarkable works. I am most familiar with them as performed on the organ but for an arrangement for string instruments I recommend The Brook Street Band on Avie AV2199
. This version, for two harpsichords, brings to the fore features which I hadn’t noticed or considered before. For example, with these instruments it is preferable to play the works rather faster than on an organ, as the notes don’t sustain. This gives the slow movements a fantastic sense of motion without losing any of the expressive devices.
The CD notes to this disc are pretty concise. In fact there is more information about the instruments used than about the performers. These two women, a minority in a male-dominated harpsichord world, show no fear at tackling these well-loved pieces. Both players stamp their authority on this disc. The first movement of the first sonata is particularly successful in showcasing them both, the interplay between the two parts is cheeky and playful. I also really enjoyed the last sonata in G major. The first movement is performed with all the noise Buckley and Schwarz could muster, using at least one 4’ register. The middle movement is delicate, with precise articulation, especially in the bass part. The last movement is light and sprightly, using a thinner registration and a more firm touch in the bass, it also demonstrates very successful ensemble playing - whilst spontaneous decisions about musical phrasing are most easily accomplished by a single person performing, these two give a pretty good impression of spontaneity.
I couldn’t possibly decide on which recording by an organist of the Trio Sonatas I would take to my desert island: the choice is too great. If I could take a handful of Trio Sonata CDs then this would make the cut. It is joyful and refreshing, varied in tone and texture and feels like a new take on these great works.