Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Instrumental Works: Recordings, Reviews & Discussions - Main Page | Order of Discussion
Recording Reviews of Instrumental Works: Main Page | Organ | Keyboard | Solo Instrumental | Chamber | Orchestral, MO, AOF
Performers of Instrumental Works: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

London Baroque (Instrumental Ensemble)

Review: Bach Trio Sonatas by London Baroque

R-1

J.S. Bach: Trio Sonatas

Trio Sonatas BWV 525-530, transcribed by Richard Gwilt [13:20, 10:06, 13:08, 10:13, 12:49, 13:36]

Charles Medlam

London Baroque

Ingrid Seifert (Violin); Richard Gwilt (Violin [1, 3, 5-6], Viola [2, 4]); Charles Medlam (Cello); Terence Charlston (Harpsichord (1-3, 5], Organ [4, 6])

BIS

Oct-Nov 2001

CD TT: 74:38

Recorded at St. Martin's Church, East Woodhay, Hampshire, England.
Review: Bach Trio Sonatas by London Baroque
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

Kirk McElhearn wrote (September 7, 2002):
As we approach our traditional Bach disc of the year survey, this one certainly should hold a place in the list.

Bachıs trio sonatas for organ are among his finest works. These pearls are small-scale sonatas in three movements, which feature some of the most delicate counterpoint in all of Bachıs works (outside of his fugues). Written for three voices, two on the keyboard and one on the pedals, they offer a vast horizon of carefully-sculpted melodies.

Unlike many of Bachıs organ works, these are not based on religious hymns, nor are they as impenetrable as some of his more complex fugues. These six Trio Sonatas are full of joy and energy, and are, perhaps, some of the happiest music Bach wrote.

London Baroque presents a new recording of the trio sonatas arranged (by Richard Gwilt) for their four-member ensemble. While the notes to this disc spend a great deal of time justifying the idea of transcribing such works, this defense is no longer necessary - the music speaks for itself.

From the very first notes on this disc, one can hear the fine quality of the performance and the energy the musicians infuse into this recording. The opening movement of the F major sonata is played with brio and verve, and comes alive at a tempo which may seem surprising at first (a bit faster than is usual on the organ), but which fits it perfectly. All of the fast movements in these works feature this energy and drive, while the slow movements, such as the slightly fugal lento of the G major sonata, are highly introspective and subtle.

London Baroque play with such a perfect texture that this music seems to have been written for their ensemble. The balance among the instruments is almost perfect, and the music comes through in excellent harmony.

The sound of the ensemble has some minor flaws - a slightly harsh sounding violin in the C major sonata, especially in the largo, and the occasional passage that is a bit too dense. But overall, London Baroque is very close to perfection when they play this delicate music. One choice that may not be ideal is the use of organ for the continuo of two of the sonatas and harpsichord for the other four. While both sound excellent, there is a lack of unity among the works for this reason. Perhaps if the sonatas alternated between the organ and harpsichord, or if they all used one or the other, this unity would be more solid.

This fine recording is certainly one of the best Bach discs of the year. London Baroque confirm their qualities as not only sensitive and well-balanced, but also creative in these fine transcriptions. This is an essential recording for Bach lovers, who will find new worlds of feeling in music that is certainly familiar.

 

Feedback to the Review

Francine Renee Hall wrote (September 8, 2002):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Thanks for the review! I just ordered it, though its release date isn't until September 24th. I'm intrigued because I have a long history with his Trio Sonatas, BWV 526-530, starting when I hit the library at my university and tried out LPs for discovery. Julian Bream and George Malcolm but out some of these Trio Sonatas on RCA using lute and harpsichord, respectively which is utterly delightful. I later picked up Christopher Herrick's Trio Sonatas (same BWVs) on Hyperion label using organ. It received rave reviews though I didn't care for it very much because Herrick over-uses the 'tremolo' which I run away from! As for the London Baroque I have Trio Sonatas, BWV 1037, 1038, 1039, and 1079 (MAK too, and John Holloway also), recorded in 1986 on HMFrance. It is a fine recording though I also found the violin and flutes to be too shrill and could have been easily turned down a bit by sensitive engineers. Practically every time Kirk mentions something or reviews something, my resolve not to buy any more CDs melts, and I 'go for it' big time!

Pete Blue wrote (September 8, 2002):
[To Kirk McElhearn] I agree with Francine's reply; and take no back seat to her in my esteem for Kirk's reviews and my reliance on his judgment. In the last year or so, he has led me to some of my most treasured and most-often-listened-to recordings. I shall certainly check out the London Baroque's Trio Sonatas.

BUT -- I wish Kirk had done a comparative review with the Hyperion disc of those works by The King's Consort. That beautiful and satisfying CD, which alternates strings (plus continuo) with oboe and oboe d'amore, was praised on this List a couple of months ago by Piotr Jaworski and seconded by me. Is the London Baroque really better?

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 8, 2002):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Out of at least a dozen recordings I have of the trio sonatas 526-530, some on organ and others on at least half a dozen different instrumentations, my favorite is still (by far) the set by Albert Fuller on harpsichord and Eliot Fisk on guitar. More than any others I know, those guys sound like they're just having fun with the music! More details are in the middle of this review: Amazon.com

Kirk, I'm curious about the new London Baroque recording: do the two violinists Gwilt and Seifert sound similar to one another, or do they try to keep the lines distinct? Or is there some shtick such as extreme stereo separation? That is, does this group go for maximum suave blend or for a more conversational sound in the counterpoint?

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 8, 2002):
[To Pete Blue] Yes, Pete, I was wondering the same thing you just asked: how does
this one really stack up against King's, or Musica Pacifica? The Musica Pacifica set is with recorder, violin, cello, and Parmentier on harpsichord. And the Aulos Ensemble recorded good performances of 525 (flute, violin, bc) and 528 (oboe d'amore, viola da gamba, bc).

Now that you mention it, I think I'll go put on King's fine disc right now.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (September 8, 2002):
Pete Blue wrote:
< I agree with Francine's reply; and take no back seat to her in my esteem for Kirk's reviews and my reliance on his judgment. In the last year or so, he has led me to some of my most treasured and most-often-listened-to recordings. I shall certainly check out the London Baroque's Trio Sonatas. >
I'm glad my reviews are helpful.

< BUT -- i wish Kirk had done a comparative review with the Hyperion disc of those works by The King's Consort. That beautiful and satisfying CD, which alternates strings (plus continuo) with oboe and oboe d'amore, was praised on this List a couple of months ago by Piotr Jaworski and seconded by me. Is the London Baroque really better? >
I'm afraid I don't have the King's Consort dics... Is it recent?

Kirk McElhearn wrote (September 8, 2002):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< I'm curious about the new London Baroque recording: do the two violinists Gwilt and Seifert sound similar to one another, or do they try to keep the lines distinct? Or is there some shtick such as extreme stereo separatio? That is, does this group go for maximum suave blend or for a more conversational sound in the counterpoint? >
They blend much more - except for two of the sonatas where Gwilt plays viola.

This said, I just listened to a bit on headphones. There is a spatial difference between the two violins, but on speakers - at least my two stereos - it was not very apparent.

 

Instrumentation of the Trio Sonatas

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 8, 2002):
I'm curious, how many different instrumentations of these sonatas BWV 525-530 have been recorded?

Excluding the organ, and Bach's own arrangement of part of 527 as the Triple Concerto (1044), here are the recordings I have:

- Konrad & Thomas Ragossnig playing 526 on lute and harpsichord

- Bream and Malcolm on lute and harpsichord (I don't currently have this, but have heard it on LP)

- Rampal and Veyron-Lacroix on flute and harpsichord (LP) (an unpalatable performance that I reviewed here earlier....)

- King's Consort: two violins, viola, cello, oboe, oboe d'amore, theorbo, organ, harpsichord variously deployed

- Musica Pacifica: recorder, violin, cello, harpsichord

- Savall and Koopman: 529 on viola da gamba and harpsichord

- E Power Biggs on pedal harpsichord

- Anthony Newman playing 530 on pedal harpsichord (LP)

- Hazelzet and Ogg playing 525-528 on traverso and harpsichord

- Fisk and Fuller on guitar and harpsichord

- Bogdanovich and Comparone on guitar and harpsichord (with heavy use of buff stop) "Bach With Pluck"

- Leopard and Paul on two Lautenwercke

- Aulos Ensemble with oboe d'amore, viola da gamba, cello, harpsichord in 528 (based on the instrumentation in Cantata BWV 76), and flute, violin, cello, harpsichord in 525

- Joseph Payne overdubbing himself with three separate harpsichord tracks, maximum stereo separation: single movements from 526 and 529 ("Spaced-Out Bach" LPs from the 1970s....)

- The new London Baroque recording (I haven't heard it yet): two violins, cello, harpsichord

- I've heard terrific live performances of these sonatas by Elizabeth Farr on pedal harpsichord; not recorded yet, to my knowledge, but she told me she was planning to do so someday

What other combinations are out there? Someday I'll finish my arrangement for two harpsichords....

My favorites in there are Fisk/Fuller and Hazelzet/Ogg. But all these different instrumentations bring out interesting aspects of the music.

Jim Morrison wrote (September 8, 2002):
< - Joseph Payne overdubbing himself with three separate harpsichord tracks, maximum stereo separation: single movements from 526 and 529 ("Spaced-Out Bach" LPs from the 1970s....) >
Spaced-Out Bach?!?!? Oh please Brad, don't stop there. Tell us more.

Agreed on the Fisk/Fuller. Amazing disc. Not to be missed.

Ps: anybody know what the liner notes are like on the recent Gould/Bach re-releases? Is there anything special about those discs worth getting?

Pete Blue wrote (September 8, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad's informative post surveying the extremely varied "transcriptions" of the Trio Sonatas raises, for me at least, the question in talking about Bach of what is an "original " and what is a "transcription" and how to evaluate their legitimacy.

While we who love Bach are accustomed to the ubiquitous presence of transcriptions, we tend to -- and probably should -- venerate the "originals" and treat the "transcriptions" as lesser creatures, at least marginally. That certainly sems to be an undercurrent of our last thread on the Goldbergs. And to a lesser degree of the perennial battle over Bach on harpsichord vs. modern piano.

When it comes to the Trio Sonatas, though, the organ originals appear not to be originals at all. I am the furthest thing from a Bach scholar, but I remember reading that Christoph Wolff has said, or implied, that the organ originals of the Trio Sonatas are themselves transciptions of (pre-Leipzig?) chamber works, now lost. (I recall reading somewhere that that is also true of the Schubler Chorales, which can all be traced to movements in earlier cantatas.)

Maybe that is one reason why the last sentence of Brad's post seems to evidence the opposite of the attitude: "But of course they're only transcriptions".

Drew Pierce wrote (September 8, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks for the list of Trio Sonata recordings. I second your enthusiam for the Fisk / Fuller recording. Got it from broinc.com (Berkshire Record Outlet) for a trifle -- one of the best bargains of 2002, for me at least.

I would only add the Purcell Quartet's excellent version (Chandos). Although King's version is my favorite, probably because of the color that the oboe adds, the PQ recording is brilliant and comes in a very strong second (for performances with more than two instruments).

Kirk McElhearn wrote (September 8, 2002):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< I'm curious, how many different instrumentations of these sonatas BWV 525-530 have been recorded? >
There is also the Purcell Quartet, which is a straight string quartet recording. It is brilliant, but it is a string quartet - what I mean is it sounds too much like a string quartet playing Bach, and not enough like Bach played on a string quartet.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (September 8, 2002):
Jim Morrison wrote:
< Ps: anybody know what the liner notes are like on the recent Gould/Bach re-releases? Is there anything special about those discs worth getting? >
I'm hoping to get a few of the sets for review. At least the double Goldbergs contain an interview CD, but the review I read was mixed – there seem to be some interesting bits, but not the entire disc.

Jim Morrison wrote (September 8, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Don't forget that lively recording (some say too rough) by the Rare Fruits Council (fantastic name) of 527 and 530 on their disc Bach Trio Sonatas, along with 1029, 1030, 1037. Manfredo (funny how he's sometimes Manfred) Kramer, Pablo Valetti, and Balazas Mate, all on strings, with Alessandrio de Marchi on organ and Dirk Boerner on harpsichord. This is the only disc I'm aware of in my collection that has a harpsichord/organ double continuo.

There may be others on my shelf, but it's the only one I can think of this morning.

A recording to seek out, I think, if especially if you're a Goebel fan. The Rare Fruits Council reminds me a bit of MAK.

Isn't Joost a fan of this recording? Maybe he has something more to say about it. Joost, Joost, come out where ever you are.

Here's a quote from the gramophone review:
Genteel and polite they are not; rather, they embrace the music with an inspiriting boisterousness and wholeheartedness which completely involves the listener. This is music-making simply bursting with life - just try the first movement of BWV 530, the quick movements of BWV 1037, or any movement from BWV 1029, sounding more like a seventh Brandenburg than ever. Most exciting of all, the players revel in Bach's life-enhancing contrapuntal interplay with a joyousness that is almost jazz-like in its freedom and exhilarating spontaneity. Their sound could be described as bold, up-front, occasionally a little coarse, but above all, well, fruity - I shall not forget the contribution of the organ in BWV 527's last movement in a hurry. If you are suffering from Bachian cobwebs, this thoroughly enjoyable release is guaranteed to blow them away.

And a contrasting review from classics today:

These are expanded arrangements of some of Bach's trio sonatas, configured for the whimsically named Rare Fruits Council: two violins (one player also performs on viola) and cello, with harpsichord and organ providing a double continuo line. The resulting density is to Bach's detriment, as the counterpoint gets lost in the thick texture. But my issues with this recording aren't limited to that set of choices: there are aesthetics to consider, too. They're eager players, and much of the time they mistake ugliness for evidence of intensity. The Vivace of the D minor sonata in particular suffers terribly because of that: it's simply a mess of strings scrubbing away.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 8, 2002):
Bradley Lehmanstated:
< What other combinations are out there? Someday I'll finish my arrangement for two harpsichords.... >
There are, according to the NBA IV/7 KB, 5 existing versions (arrangements for two harpsichords) in manuscript form - one is no longer extant) from the late 18th and early 19th century. One of these originated (was copied and arranged for) in the house of a Berlin Banker, Daniel Itzig (1722-1799) whose house C.P.E. Bach and W.F. Bach visited and whose daughter, Sarah, was a patroness of CPE and WF, and another daughter, Lea, who was the great aunt of Felix Mendelssohn. On this manuscript (the arrangement for 2 Hpschs) there appears the name of Fanny von Arnstein, née Itzig, probably another daughter (or granddaughter?) of Daniel Itzig.

According to the NBA editors, some mvts., and perhaps even entire sonatas, of the organ version go back to Bach's Weimar period (1708-1717.) The research involved here is extremely complicated and thorough.

 

Trio Sonatas BWV 525-530: Trio Sonatas - Biggs | Trio Sonatas - Johanssen & Lippincott | Trio Sonatas - London Baroque

Terence Charlston: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Review: Bach Trio Sonatas by London Baroque | Review: Italian Concerto and more

Instrumental Works: Recordings, Reviews & Discussions - Main Page | Order of Discussion
Recording Reviews of Instrumental Works: Main Page | Organ | Keyboard | Solo Instrumental | Chamber | Orchestral, MO, AOF
Performers of Instrumental Works: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links



 

Back to the Top


Last update: ŭOctober 29, 2006 ŭ21:49:52