I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Bach's Trio Sonatas

Bach triosonatas palladian

The six trios for organ by Johann Sebastian Bach are well-loved pieces composed (as is believed) for study of the trio sonata form with the education of Bach's eldest son, W.F. Bach. Debate continues as to whether or not these works were arranged for organ from instrumental counterparts/originals, or if they were indeed originally (and solely) composed for the organ. In recent years, interest at the heart of the controversy has created several recordings where historically-driven performers have "arranged" the organ works for various combinations of instruments, creating a more-or-less standard baroque trio sonata. The works, however, are far from ordinary. Careful craft is evident, and for those who love these works on organ, they take on new character as instrumental ensemble pieces. Curiously, each sonata is in three movements. Bach's contemporaries followed Italian models, often in 4 or more movements. Bach instead adopted a concerto-like form, fast-slow-fast. The ability to attack these works with two individual performers on the two upper lines makes for interesting interpretation, added ornamentation, and dialogue in the form of coloring and dynamics. Some performers opt for embellishing the continuo. In 2000, I wrote at length about Bach's "Six Trio Sonatas," BWV 525-530, written for organ. One of my favorite releases has been the one by the King's Consort on Hyperion. I wrote: This was my first introduction into Bach's trio sonatas for organ. But here are arrangements for oboe, violin, viola, and harpsichord and cello, much in the same vein as the recording by the Palladian Ensemble. If you don't know the CDs by the Kings Consort, some are better than others... Robert King, the group's leader, plays harpsichord and organ and likes to do vocal works. Nevertheless, this is by far the best CD this ensemble, here in Chamber-mode, has ever put out. While not as spicy or zesty as some other ensembles (Il Giardino Armonico), whose playing I adore, this is straight Bach with a very intelligent approach. I in fact, around 1996 when this CD came out in the US, used it as one of the 2 CDs I auditioned loudspeakers with when purchasing a stereo, as a test CD. Wow. Details I never heard in the music before popped-out, like clicks and clacks of the baroque oboe keys, or subtle nuances in the baroque string sound. While some passages go quite quickly, these players take their time and milk the slower passages for all their glory. If you only get one rearrangement of the Bach organ sonatas, this would be the one to get. After many listens, I think what I appreciate best about this release is the quality of the wind playing, the choice and variety of instruments, and (again) the well-recorded sound. The clouds on the CD cover suggest atmospheric music, and believe it or not, the results here range in the cloud-range. I'd recommend this disc too for the full collection of all six instrumental arrangements of the trio sonatas, preserved in original keys, with instruments chosen to match range. The Palladians had emerged with a similar disc, adding the Goldberg canons to the mix, with a less-diverse ensemble of performers; violin, recorder, gamba, and bass lute. Wow, nine works on one CD, with 5 minutes left empty on a CD, quite an accomplishment. This group has changed members a couple of times, but here uses gambist Susanna Heinrich. This is the famous Palladian Ensemble, a mildly successful group of young Brits who here examine the Bach trio sonatas with some additions. The additions include organ duettos and the Goldberg Canons, BWV 1087. For the most part, a very well done recording. The Bach trio sonatas are well done. Not as well as the King's Consort below, who performs some of the same works, but well done. The sound I don't care for a lot is the recorder. Thorby does a good job at playing the instruments, but I'm not sure it works as well in the Bach sonata texture. And the entire ensemble, as a whole, doesn't have any semblance to a "typical Bach sound." They have their own sound, perhaps even rough on the edges in some respects (violin and recorder). These are never zestily played, but there is a fair amount of push to the style that pleases. The gems on the CD, in my opinion, are the organ Duettos and the concluding BWV 1087: the fourteen Goldberg Canons. There's a fair amount of arranging here but the performance is first rate and hearing this many times neglected music is quite a treat. In a final listen in writing this review, I have to say, as a suggestion, Thorby needs to play oboe in a few tracks to avoid the low range of the recorder in some tracks. It's just too soft. Even two stringed instruments would probably offer a better solution but this is an ensemble of recorder, violin, gamba/cello, and theorbo. What I admire most about the interpretation is the penetrating, yet rounded tone of the violin playing (Podger is quite good, and an asset to the ensemble) and some of the shapes of phrases from all involved in the slower movements. They explore the depth of line that is often lost. To this day now, I think I still regard the version by King's Consort higher; that's to say nothing about the musical content in this release, however. The slow tempo of the 10th track, for instance, is one example where criticism might creep in: the instruments used simply cannot sustain the lines at the chosen tempo. I also don't like the recorded sound quality, I think it was recorded in too live an acoustic space. What's left isn't terribly clear or transparent, as a result. If one could only choose one disc, however, I did enjoy greatly having the organ duets and Goldberg Canons on this release. Bach Trio Sonatas (BWV 530, 525, 527, 529 the Palladian Ensemble / (p) 1996 Telos / Linn

Sei Concerti per il cembalo concertato by CPE Bach

Avison Concerti Grossi