These three sonatas - composed originally for the viola da gamba and harpsichord - are very musically-appealing compositions. And unlike previous Baroque cahmber-music tradition, the harpsichord is not relegated to mere continuo but projected into the spotlight as co-soloist - perhaps to showcase some of Bach's keyboard virtuosity. There are several fine period recordings of these works on viola da gamba and harpsichord (Savall, Peri, Crum, Wispelwey) or modern cello with harpsichord (Ma, Tortelier). But if your taste favors all modern instuments (cello, piano), then this circa-80's CD by the legendary Martha Argerich and Misha Maisky is the ticket.
Gidon Kremer has again recorded the Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin of Bach and while his facility and technical grace are intact, in this recording he appears to have been deeply influenced by his time with the moderns (Adams, Pärt, Schnittke, Piazzola, Glass, et al). For this listener it seems that studying and performing these contemporary composers' manipulation of sound and instrumental scope has enriched Kremer's thought about the perfection of Bach. Not everyone will agree with Kremer's approach to these works on this new recording, but for those who know Bach's solo violin pieces there are pleasures in store. Remaining technically suave and with a luxuriant tone, Kremer seems to be communicating with the psychological Bach, offering different tempi and more soulful approaches than those of his colleagues. The results are mesmerizing. Highly recommended.
Rarely do we feel the presence of Bach so vividly on a recording as we do here with this set of Trio Sonata arrangements, performed by violins, viola da gamba, and harpsichord. What a perfect combination, thanks to Richard Boothby's settings and to the wonderfully synergistic interaction among these very experienced early music players--violinists Catherine Mackintosh (in her best recorded performance in a while) and Catherine Weiss, gambist Boothby, and harpsichordist Robert Woolley. There's certainly nothing wrong with arranging Bach's music like this--and indeed, Boothby does "mix things up" by transposing keys and instrumental lines--as Bach himself reused, rearranged, and transposed his own and others' music. In these string versions of pieces normally performed on the organ we hear occasional enticing hints of the violin concertos and, because of the instruments' different registers and colors, the lines emerge in new and surprising ways. This disc makes a nice companion to Bernard Labadie's arrangement of the Goldberg Variations for strings and continuo, recorded with Les Violons du Roy on Dorian (see reviews and features): both are distinguished for their learned, totally faithful, yet refreshingly entertaining and enlightening recastings of music that's not only timeless but seemingly limitless in its revelatory capacity. The sound is demonstration quality--this is one of those recordings that when you turn it up to just the right level, the instruments come to stunningly real, three-dimensional life, no fancy surround-sound or other high end equipment needed.ClassicsToday - David Vernier
Stylistic security and superior technique - don't miss Mullova's outstanding Bach. Gramophone
The late Nathan Milstein’s 1975 stereo remake (DG mid-price) was his own preferred version of these pillars of the violin repertoire with which he had been so associated since his youth in Odessa. But his (broadly faster) mid-Fifties New York account, now remastered and restored by EMI, was a famous yardstick of its time – a grandly phrased, aristocratically structured, Romantically resonant statement to treasure beside Menuhin and Heifetz. These are epic virtuoso performances justifying Milstein’s view that with this music the performer could ‘bask in the most glamorous light’. Stylistically, purists will object to their expressive liberty and gesture. But few will be able to resist their artistry or intensity of delivery.