Categories
Recording

J. S. Bach Libro Primo | 1720

Guillaume Rebinguet Sudre violin / harpsichord / organ
150:00 (2 CDs in a card triptych)
Encelade ECL 2001

These two CDs of the Sei Soli are a novel addition to our experience of Bach and multi-tasking. Like Bach, Guillaume Rebinguet Sudre plays both violin and keyboard instruments: the violin is a copy by Christian Rault in 2015 of a Jacob Stainer of 1699, the harpsichord he made himself in 2015 and is modelled on three Mietke instruments (Bach is known to have travelled to Berlin in 1719 to take delivery of one that had been ordered by the Prince of Anhalt-Köthen) and the organ is by Andreas Silbermann of 1718 and was restored by Blumenrode in 2015 for Sainte-Aurélie, Strasbourg. The performances were all recorded in lock-down, and like others of that period offer an insight into how players passed that time in a series of rather introspective, self-critical solo performances. 

Exploring the resonances and implied if not entirely realised harmonies is a good mental exercise and bears out C. P. E. Bach’s comment that his father composed in his head but afterwards would try it out on a keyboard. Bach was already experimenting from the two-part inventions onwards how to develop a melodic phrase in such a way as to make it capable of being the germ of a complex polyphonic structure. Such a phrase might immediately suggest a countersubject, or be capable of inversion, augmentation or diminution. Such compositional skills had been an expected stock in trade of those early Renaissance composers like Obrecht, Ockeghem and Josquin, but reappear as key techniques in Bach’s ever-resourceful inventiveness. It was this ability to hear the implied harmonic structure of a particular melodic line that is revealed by his pupil J. F. Agricola’s comment that Johann Sebastian would sometimes play one of the suites or partitas he had written for a solo instrument on a keyboard, filling out the implied harmonies: 

their author often played them on the clavichord himself and added as much harmony to them as he deemed necessary. In doing so he recognized the necessity of resonant harmony which in this kind of composition he could not otherwise attain. 

This is what these CDs offer: CD 1 opens with the cembalo version of the opening Adagio of BWV 1005, which we hear in its violin version on CD 2.7. 

CD 2 opens with the Prelude BWV 539 which has been added to the keyboard version of the Fugue from the violin sonata BWV 1001.ii which we hear on CD 1.3. We do not know whether the transcription of the fugue for keyboard is from Bach’s own hand, and the authenticity of the Prelude is doubted, as no version before c. 1800 is known. On CD 1 the third Sonata is the cembalo version of BWV 1003, BWV 964. So we hear Rebinguet Sudre play the organ (manualiter) and harpsichord as well as the violin. He plays with a considered gravitas, emphasised when he moves to a more resonant acoustic for the violin recordings on CD 2, and offers us a take that might not have seen the light were it not for the lockdown. 

While I am grateful for his passion and dedication – not least in the very fine harpsichord he has built – I am not entirely convinced by his mystical account of Bach’s supposed state of mind as he wrote these pieces. 

David Stancliffe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *