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Shades of Yo-Yo Ma?

Ann Bond reviews a new CD of Bach's Gamba Sonatas


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Does it matter? Well, it may be that the putative redating of the sonatas was made the basis for using a fortepiano in the gamba sonata in D - since Bach met his first fortepiano in his Leipzig years, when he visited Potsdam in 1747. Certainly, there is no doubt that the fortepiano works particularly well for this sonata, and indeed it smooths out some of the textural problems that occur with the harpsichord [click to listen]. But the price paid is, that the music no longer sounds entirely baroque: the identity of the music can suffer when you resolve some of its tensions (a philosophical point, maybe).

Pieter Wispelwey. Bach Gambas Sonatas. Copyright (c) 1999 Channel ClassicsMost people will not worry about all this, when confronted with music-making of such an exceptional order. The three players act as one, responding in complete accord to the inner impulses of the music, and the quick movements have a wonderful buoyancy. I have to say that there is, to my mind, an occasional tendency to force the tempo; the last movement of the G minor gamba sonata is certainly pushed, and there is hardly enough space for the sinuous chromatic harmony of the lovely Siciliano (arranged from the E major harpsichord concerto) to make its full effect. And on a more basic level, the rhythm of the opening cello prelude seems unduly distorted, even allowing for the string-crossing. But Egarr's handling of the organ in the Siciliano is masterly, and Wispelwey plays like all the Abels of this world rolled into one - even if neither of the C.F.'s is known to have played the cello. [Click to listen.]

I always avoid the word 'purist', because it covers a host of misconceptions; but only a diehard musical fundamentalist could resist this record.


Copyright © Ann Bond, November 7th 1999


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