Gamba Sonatas

Krzysztof Firlus viola da gamba, Anna Firlus harpsichord
DUX 1471
Sonatas by J. S. & C. P. E. Bach, Christian & Christian Wilhelm Podbielski

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]f the repertoire on this attractive CD EMR readers are likely to know the gamba sonatas by J. S. and C. P. E. Bach, but frankly are unlikely to know the two very pleasant sonatas by Christian Podbielski. It could be argued that this is largely because the latter was born and grew up in Königsberg (now the Russian enclave city of Kaliningrad) which in the 18th century was a hub of artistic activity but which subsequently found itself marginalized culturally and politically. Podbielski published a fairly extensive body of work, and the present sonatas are full of felicitous touches and original textures and melodic ideas. It was around this time in the late 18th century that the gamba was being replaced by the cello, and there are many aspects of these sonatas which suggest the cello rather than the gamba. Pleasantly galante in style rather than intensely Baroque, their full charm and elegance is brought out by the stylish playing of the Firluses, who – in addition to enjoying as husband and wife a special rapport with one another – also clearly have a close rapport with this repertoire. Their performances of the more familiar Bach sonatas show that they are able to cope well with the more musically demanding repertoire of the period just as well. They are to be congratulated for uncovering the music of Podbielski, fine music from a cultural context not yet extensively explored, and which is clearly worthy of attention.

D. James Ross

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