Erich Höbarth violin, Aapo Häkkinen harpsichord
119:35 (2 SACDs)
BWV 1014–1019, 1021–1023
This is a fabulously recorded set – you can hear every detail of the music without the slightest hint of breathing or other incidental sounds. The balance between violin and harpsichord (huge dynamic range afforded by the variety of sounds available to Häkkinen notwithstanding!) is expertly managed. Bach’s lines are crystal clear throughout without the excessive bite that sometimes spoils recordings of Bach’s music for this combination. While Aapo Häkkinen explores every facet of his 1970 instrument (after Hass1), I did not feel that Höbarth was as interested in varying his colour so much. Another difference of approach was evident in the Adagio of BWV1017 where the right hand keyboard part has triplets, the left hand has even quavers and the violin dotted quavers; while Häkkinen smooths these into triplets, Höbarth tucks his semiquavers in after the third of each group. This may be an interesting effect musically, but I fear it was not what Bach intended. While there is no denying that he is master of Bach’s notes, I was not entirely convinced by Höbarth’s ornamentation either. The thoroughly footnoted booklet essay only lightly touches on the possibility of BWV 1023 having been written for Pisendel, later the Dresden Konzertmeister. In summary, this set has a fine bonus by way of three other sonatas for violin and harpsichord (some may argue that BWV 2012 and 1023 need basso continuo – i. e., a sustaining string bass), and the harpsichord playing is impeccable, but I prefer the sounds made by various other violinists. Try for yourself, though!