Mischa Maisky / Martha Argerich J.S. BACH Sonates pour Violoncelle BWV 1027-1029

Bach wrote these sonatas, some of whose music presents a reworking of earlier trio compositions, for a partnership of viola da gamba and harpsichord. The G major and D major works adopt the four-movement sonata da chiesa scheme, whilst the G minor, organized more along the lines of a concerto, is in three movements. The harpsichord is treated as a concertante instrument almost throughout, whilst the viola da gamba writing reflects the virtuoso position which the instrument had reached in late-baroque German music. These are absorbingly interesting and emotionally satisfying works which reach their high-water mark in the expansive and very beautiful Sonata in G minor, BWV1029.
Most of the recordings on the market are performances on the instruments which Bach specifically asked for, but intelligent and expressive readings recently came from Yo-Yo Ma and Kenneth Cooper on CBS. Here is another which takes us a step, but a big step further from Bach's own sound-picture. Let me say at once that the playing of both artists is highly accomplished and is a true partnership throughout. The DG engineers have been careful not to give either instrument undue prominence over the other and that ensures both textural clarity and musical sense. Mischa Maisky is a fine a technician with an unerring ear for intonation and a good sense of phrase. Martha Argerich's Bach playing probably needs little in the way of introduction from me—her recording of the C minor Partita, BWV826, is one of the finest by a pianist that I am acquainted with (DG 2531 088, 3/80—nla). In this new release there is a comparable stylistic assurance, clarity in articulation and liveliness of temperament though I find the result less satisfying and less convincing. The fault is not entirely hers for my chief reservation rests with the character of the piano itself. It's too plummy for my ear and that quality is emphasized by a somewhat hollow acoustic too far removed from a chamber ambience; but I found, also, that chords are apt to sound heavy in the slow movements and that the way they are broken up at cadences is stylistically unconvincing. My feeling is that, in the end, these sonatas do not work well on a piano but there will be many, perhaps, who disagree and they will not be disappointed by the Maisky/Argerich partnership.
As I said earlier, there is some splendid music-making here, but I hope prospective investors hitherto unacquainted with these pieces will not be deterred from hearing them played on the instruments for which Bach wrote them. There is a world of difference between the end results of two such disparate sonorities.' (Nicholas Anderson)

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  1. thank you. i'm surprised i don't already have these pieces in my collection, so thanks again. -a.v.

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