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Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord BWV 1014-1019
Emlyn Ngai (Baroque Violin) & Peter Watchorn (Harpsichord)
Peter Watchorn Finds a Home

H-1

J.S. Bach: Six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord

Sonatas for violin & keyboard, BWV 1014-1019 [13:11, 14:24, 15:46, 17:47, 17:41, 24:38]
Beyond the Notes - Bach as Cappellmeister: Cöthen 1717-1722 [27.39]

Emlyn Ngai (Baroque Violin); Peter Watchorn (Harpsichord)

Musica Omnia MO-0112

Dec 13-14, 2000 [1, 3, 6]
Mar 13-15, 2001 [2, 4, 5]

2-CD / TT: 103:30 + 27:39

Recorded at The Sonic Temple, Roslindale, MA, USA.
Review: Peter Watchorn Finds a Home [Satz]
Review: Bach Violin and Harpsichord Sonatas [McElhearn]
Buy this album at:
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Music Download: Amazon.com

Donald Satz wrote (September 11, 2001):
It was just a few days ago that I unfavorably reviewed a new set of the Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord from Micaela Comberti and Colin Tilney for Dorian. These two artists were unduly reserved in their performances, thereby not meriting much attention.

Harpsichordist Peter Watchorn and violinist Emlyn Ngai now present another new set for the recently formed company Musica Omnia. Mr. Watchorn had started a Bach keyboard series for Titanic that only lasted through one recording, the English Suites. Subsequently, he recorded a disc of Bach's Toccatas for Hanssler. However, what company would permit Watchorn to progress and finalize the Bach cycle he originally intended? There is one way to improve the probabilities; just start up your own record company. That's what Watchorn, the Executive Director for Musica Omnia, has done. One very distinctive element of all Musica Omnia recordings is an additional disc titled "Beyond the Notes" where "performers, scholars, instrument makers, and composers place the music in its historical and cultural context". Since Bach isn't available to provide commentary for the set at hand, Watchorn does the honors and I'll have some comments on his verbal contributions later.

Emlyn Ngai is a young adult artist who has studied with the Emerson String Quartet, Eugene Drucker, and Philip Setzer. Ngai has recorded for Titanic, ATMA, Centaur, Vangaurd Classics, Eclectra, and Harmonia Mundi. He has also made the circuit with many of the Baroque orchestras of distinction such as Tafelmusik.

My initial hope was that this new recording would not be the undernourished listening experience provided by the other new set on Dorian. I did have a fair degree of confidence given that Watchorn is certainly not a subdued performer of Bach's music.

That confidence was confirmed through listening to Watchorn's performances. He is always alert and vital; everything missing in Colin Tilney's readings comes up aces with Watchorn as the exuberance he supplies exceeds any other version I can think of. Only his performance of the cembalo solo from the last sonata is not superb, but it is a strong and enjoyable alternative.

I come now to Emlyn Ngai, and some reservations set in with the first movement from BWV 1014; the 'weeping' phrases could be more incisive and the tremendous release of energy toward the conclusion could be stronger and sharper. In the second movement, Ngai's vitality sags at times; this reduces the excitement in the music.

The two examples above reflect Ngai's occasional tendency to not be as emotionally deep nor as angular as the best violinists in these works such as Kuijken and Blumenstock. The vitality issue also strikes from time to time. Ngai and Watchorn employ slower than average tempos in the fast movements; it never hurts Watchorn's exuberance, but Ngai is impacted negatively. I do want to stress that he often is right in step with Watchorn and that his violin has a gorgeous sound. Ngai is a major improvement over Comberti, and Watchorn is exponentially preferred to Tilney.

The last subject concerns the third "Beyond the Notes" disc which is divided into eleven tracks. Watchorn packs a lot of information into his twenty-seven minutes. He emphasizes that the Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord give the harpsichord equal status to the violin instead of its traditional role as a continuo instrument. Watchorn then goes on to stress the need for the 'right' balance between the two instruments, a balance that insures equal status for the harpsichord. That leads to some talk about the copy of a 'Harrass' harpsichord he uses which is a very powerful instrument.

Watchorn also discusses the life at Cothen during Bach's tenure and provides a detailed synopsis of each of the six movements in the set. I think the third disc is an excellent addition to the set, although Watchorn certainly reveals which instrument is on his mind.

Don's Conclusion: A highly competitive set just short of being among the elite. It's a particularly great version for those who really like to focus on the harpsichord, and the "Beyond the Notes" disc should be a fine bonus for most purchasers.

 

Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord BWV 1014-1019: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Carmignola & Marcon | Comberti & Tilney | Ngai & Watchorn (Satz) | Ngai & Watchorn (McElhearn) | Ronez & Kubitschek | Standage & Ad-El

Emlyn Ngai: Peter Watchorn Finds a Hom [Satz] | Review: Bach Violin and Harpsichord Sonatas [McElhearn]

Peter Watchorn: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
New Bach English Suites from Titanic | Bach's Toccatas for Harpsichord from Watchorn & Troeger (3 Parts) | Peter Watchorn Finds a Home [Satz] | Review: Bach Violin and Harpsichord Sonatas [McElhearn]

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Last update: ęDecember 8, 2006 ę18:52:25