Trios for fortepiano & viola da gamba

C. P. E. Bach, Graun, Hesse
Lucie Boulanger viola da gamba, Arnaud de Pasquale & Laurent Stewart fortepiano
71:52
Alpha 202

The recording opens with a trio by Graun. The sound is strikingly classical, overwhelming in its energy. The allegro theme introduced by the fortepiano, a lovely crystalline sound, with the viol playing an obbligato cantilena, with a second fortepiano providing continuo bass. A slower movement follows, a dialogue between the viol playing thirds, and the fortepiano. The style is that of the Berlin school, limpid melodies, floating beguilingly, concluding with a cadenza from the piano. The final movement, allegro, is again introduced by the fortepiano, the viol entering with its own theme, demanding great virtuosity from both players.

Two sonatas by C. P. E. Bach follow. The first is a transcription for viola da gamba of a violin sonata in D major. It’s a very attractive work, opening with a lovely cantilena Adagio, very much in the style of the older Bach.

She plays a copy of a Tielke, with seven strings, and a full, rich sound, beautifully balanced with the keyboards, one of which is copied from a Silbermann dated 1749, the other from a Cristofori dated 1722. The latter is used in the Sinfonia in A minor, by C. P. E. Bach, a transcription of a trio sonata. It has a very clear, harpsichord-like sound, but rounded and bell-like in its treble register. The music is wonderfully playful, sudden changes of register and key, interspersed with cantilena passages, played with compelling eloquence.

A sonata attributed to Ludwig Christian Hesse follows, suitably virtuosic, more chordal, as one might expect from someone who had lessons from both Marais and Forqueray. The Silbermann copy used in this piece has a slightly more astringent sound in the treble, but with a beautiful resonance. Again the texture is that of a trio sonata with the viol and piano in partnership, the instruments in constant dialogue.

The final piece by C. P. E. Bach has a marvellous first movement, contrasting the humours Sanguine and Melancholic, exploiting to great effect the extremes of contrasting moods.

The fairly brief booklet notes give little information about the artists, perhaps implying that their playing speaks for itself, which it certainly does. They play brilliantly, giving the music the wide range of colour and dynamics it demands, and with absolute technical assurance. Highly recommended.

Robert Oliver

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