|Comments:||Alastair Asher said:|
Discouraged by an overwhelmingly negative review I had read, I decided to get this recording anyway because I have admired Simon Standage's violin playing in his numerous recordings with the English Concert.
The reviewer had been horrified by the addition of viola da gamba to the usual harpsichord and violin duo. While this is not common these days, Bach provided a part for this instrument as 'ad libitum', so one can hardly say 'Bach did not intend it!' Anyway, I have found to my considerable pleasure that the three instruments go together marvellously, and the harpsichord is certainly not drowned out or overwhelmed by the presense of the additional bass. In fact, it works so well, I am surprised it is not done more. Of course, it adds a new dimension to the long pedal notes that occasionally occur in the bass.
The harpsichordist is very accomplished, and plays quite well, though there are a very few places where he is not completely at ease. The viola da gamba player is equally good.
Simon Standage's playing is really wonderful. He has done quartets, concertos, chamber music, conducting and lead the English Concert for over 20 years. It is no surprise that at this stage in his career (he must be in his 50s at least) his playing is thoughtful, nuanced and perfectly judged. I had only heard the Trevor Pinnock/Rachel Podger recording of these sonatas before (and hearing that, did not need to hear another) but Standage has a greater range of expression and is technically surer and more graceful in his playing. I wish he would record the solo sonatas and partitas.
In conclusion, this is a recording well worth finding (and it seems to be quite rare).