BACH; SCARLATTI; HANDEL Gamba Sonatas

Record and Artist Details

Composer or Director: Domenico Scarlatti, George Frideric Handel, Johann Sebastian Bach

Genre:

Chamber

Label: Hyperion

Media Format: CD or Download

Mastering:

DDD

Catalogue Number: CDA68045

CDA68045. BACH; SCARLATTI; HANDEL Gamba Sonatas

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Sonatas for Keyboard Nos. 1-555 Richard Egarr
Robin Michael
Steven Isserlis
Domenico Scarlatti Composer
Sonatas for Violin and Continuo Steven Isserlis
Richard Egarr
Robin Michael
George Frideric Handel Composer
(3) Sonatas for Viola da gamba and Harpsichord Richard Egarr
Johann Sebastian Bach Composer
Steven Isserlis
Orgel-Büchlein Richard Egarr
Steven Isserlis
Johann Sebastian Bach Composer
None of these pieces was written for cello and harpsichord, and at no stage does that matter one bit. Bach’s sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord may not have been conceived for that combination but they are such sublime creations that the identity of the instruments is perhaps the last thing that should worry us. Rather, it is the performers’ musicianship that counts, and in this case that is of high quality indeed.

Steven Isserlis makes no attempt to make his cello imitate the wispy resonance of the gamba, instead claiming the music for his instrument with vigorously articulated lines, robust technical athleticism and ravishing cantabile. Indeed, it is this wondrous singing quality – which never loses its bearing and employs vibrato only as one of its discreet expressive elements – that stands out in these performances, its presence felt above all in the slow movements, of course, but also constantly governing the sense of line in busier ones. Also telling is the profound awareness of architecture and the inter-relationship of movements, for instance in the gathering joy with which the finale of BWV1027 picks us off the floor following the sudden shaft of desolation that has ended the preceding Andante (astutely likened by Isserlis to ‘Es ist vollbracht’ from the St John Passion). In short, these are full-blooded but sensitive readings which, far from being contrary to Bach’s spirit, seem rather to magnify it.

Isserlis is excellently partnered at every turn by Richard Egarr’s bustling harpsichord-playing, though I would have liked a greater presence for it in the balance to give more definition to the unsupported bass-line. In the two non-Bach items – sonatas probably originally conceived for violin and continuo by Handel and Scarlatti (the latter working up a fiery head) – the balance works better, with Egarr typically inventive and Robin Michael’s lightly drawn doubling of the bass adding just enough weight without drawing attention to itself. Otherwise, they show the same quality in performance as the Bach – namely first-class.

Gramophone Print

  • Print Edition

From £67/year

Subscribe

The Gramophone Digital Club

  • Digital Edition
  • Digital Archive
  • Reviews Database
  • Events & Offers

From £90/year

Subscribe

Gramophone Reviews

  • Reviews Database

From £67/year

Subscribe

Gramophone Digital Edition

  • Digital Edition
  • Digital Archive

From £67/year

Subscribe

If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.