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Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord BWV 1014-1019

Bach's Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord, Part 5

Continue from Part 4

Donald Satz wrote (March 5, 2001):
Sonata No. 5 in F minor BWV 1018 - Bach did not specify the tempo of the slow first movement, so you can find it listed as 'Adagio', 'Largo', or any other designation conveying slow tempo. No matter what you call it, the music is highly mournful and reflective. Most performances are in the six minute range; the sloweest stretches to well over seven minutes. The harpsichord, with a three-voice texture, dominates the movement while the violin takes on the role of an accompanist by entering and departing at various points. The violin provides the mournful element while the harpsichord is largely reflective in mood.

Van Dael, Goebel, and Wallfisch reach the heights of mournful pensiveness, and their partners are in perfect unison. Manze mourns little, and his partner Egarr uses a halting pace which I find annoying. Joining Manze at the bottom level is Terakado who also finds little to mourn about. The remaining versions are very good. Some listeners may find Holloway too wiry and Ronez too bitter; a little audio adjustment is in order here. I had a hunch that Biondi would take first prize for mournfulness but I was wrong - way off the mark.

The second movement Allegro is fast and exciting music. Wallfisch is very speedy but conveys little excitement. Terakado's reading never does take flight, and Biondi's cute mannerisms are a major annoyance. Kuijken's version is rather stodgy, and Manze sounds a little lazy and not in unison with Egarr.

Better performances which are moderately exciting include Podger, Goebel, Huggett, Holloway, and Mackintosh. Ronez, Blumenstock, and Schroder provide very exciting issues. van Dael and van Apseren are on the slow side, but that doesn't hinder them from delivering a fully energized and exciting performance. What makes their reading special is the strong heroism and stature they provide, qualities that the other versions only glance at.

The third movement Adagio finds the violin ostensibly in the role of accompanist, but it's the violin that provides urgency to the music. There's also a little climax at the conclusion of the Adagio that can be very effective and uplifting. The only version I don't find rewarding comes from Wallfisch/Nicholson. I can't tell you what I think of Nicholson's performance, because he is too recessed to notice. In the meantime, Wallfisch sounds overpowering. But I can adjust and listen to the Adgio as as essentially a violin solo. However, that doesn't work well since Wallfisch is not particularly expressive and the violin part itself has limitations due to its accompanist status.

Excellent offerings are from Huggett, van Dael, Biondi, and Terakado. Biondi is very fast with the best climax of all the versions; I love how he puts on the brakes. There's a comforting element to the music which the other three capture beautifully.

Ronez, Blumenstock, and Kuijken are outstanding. Ronez's performance has an urgency that's irresistable, Blumenstock is the most expressive and conversational, and Kuijken's partner, Leonhardt, gives the most expressive account on the harpsichord. These three versions are significantly more interesting than the others. The remaining versions are worthy endeavors.

The fourth movement is a Vivace of tremendous energy. It's fast, exuberant, exciting, and has a perpetual motion element. Bach takes me to the edge of the envelope but makes sure I don't fall off. Also, the Vivace is a great example of a Bach piece dependent on syncopation.

Versions not up to snuff include Manze and Terakado. Manze and Egarr simply sound sluggish to me; I get the image of two guys getting out of bed in a daze. Terakado and Henstra are not sluggish but they are earth-bound and going through the motions.

Most of the remaining versions are very good; Ronez, Biondi, and Schroder are better than that. Ronez and Biondi display excellent degrees of urgency and excitement. Schroder is best of all. He and Ingolfsdottir *are* perpetual motion and possess great energy and urgency. Theirs is a wonderful performance sure to please.

Update: van Dael, Ronez, and Schroder, followed closely by Blumenstock, give the best performances of the Sonata in F minor. Manze and Terakado are the least attractive to me. Manze continues to drop in my estimation; Ronez continues to rise. Blumenstock continues to keep her top level position, and there's only a minimal chance she can lose it.

Continue on Part 6

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

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Last update: żAugust 6, 2003 ż07:17:11