Friday, January 25, 2008

Original Bach

J.S. Bach: Viola da gamba Sonatas, etc.
Aapo Hakkinen, harpsichord and Mikko Perkola, viola da gamba
Naxos records, 8.570210

  • Three Sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord, BWV 1027-1029
  • Two Trios, BWV 583 and 584
  • Harpsichord Sonatas, BWV 963 and 967

The gambist on this Naxos release from late last year is Finnish baroque specialist and early music teacher Mikko Perkola. He is joined by the young Finnish harpsichordist Aapo Hakkinen, who teaches at the Helsinki Sibelius Academy, and is the Artistic Director of the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra and of the Early Music concert series at the Institut Finlandais in Paris.

These Viola da Gamba Sonatas are most often performed nowadays on 'cello and a modern grand piano, and while I came to be familiar with these pieces on that instrumental combination at the hands of Leonard Rose and Glenn Gould years ago, I find it to be different and more vital music when performed on the instruments Bach knew. For me it's not so much an authenticity thing--though I cast no aspersions on that goal, and at times I place my own premium on this priority; rather, I just find the character and tone of the viola da gamba aligns with something deeply in my musical sensitivities that the 'cello doesn't quite reach, despite it being my favorite voice of the modern string family. The vibrato-free steadiness and slightly nasal tone of the gamba seems to fully expose the artist, and the harpsichord's metallic timbre contrasts with the flatter tone of the viol, giving a richness and edge to the sound the breathes life into the works.

In addition to the more popular three Sonatas, the recording includes a couple less-well-known movements, the Trios BWV 583 and 584, which I know as solo organ pieces, and which are thought to date from around the same time as Bach's famous Trio Sonatas for organ (BWV 525-531). The recording also includes a couple pieces for solo harpsichord which I'm surprised to find are not in my collection--well, one not at all (BWV 967, considered a bit dubious) and the other (BWV 963) is on organ. So some new or substantially freshened repertoire is always a treat. The sonatas are all expertly played, with tempos and phrasing just perfect to my ear.

The recording, as always with Naxos, is excellent.

1 comment:

shrimplate said...

I grew up with the Rose/Gould recording, too, but now after years trying to develop an understanding of early music performance practice those sound weird to me. Good, very good, but something else.