Johannes Pramsohler and Philippe Grisvard team up with violin and harpsichord with a baroque recital featuring an interesting mixture of late baroque gems, with works supposedly by Bach, but also Krebs, Pisendel, and Graun, hence the title, Bach and Entourage. The album has been released on Audax records, the artist's own label.
Pramsohler is a new violinist, to my ears, and a very confident one at that. This release was of special interest to me because it features a very “famous” violin. Pramsohler has purchased the Rogeri violin once owned by Reinhard Goebel. It was that same violin that Goebel used to make his own recordings of BWv 1024 and BWV 1026, featured on this disc. Pramsohler has also consulted with Goebel, which is all very interesting from my perspective. And for the collector, it begs for comparisons between different recordings.
In general, Mr. Pramsohler is less rushed that Mr. Goebel. I use that word lightly, because I always felt Goebel’s tempo choices were spot-on to my ears, even when they were fast. Pramsohler plays well, albeit just a little slower, in some comparison tracks. The only section I think suffers is the Pisendel solo sonata, which seems to lose momentum. For that piece, I compare this new recording to that of Anton Steck, an alumnus of Musica Antiqua Köln. Steck’s performance is more daring and virtuosic. Nevertheless, Pramsohler’s playing, in general, is strong and confident. Compared to Goebel, he has a heavier bow hand, and doesn’t use a lighter touch nearly as much to give shape to longer notes, as a way to phrase a line. Otherwise, hearing the old violin under a different chin is somewhat chilling: it’s an absolutely beautiful baroque violin that helped, no doubt, make Goebel and MAK so well-loved. It’s tone and strong lower end is so attractive.
The Graun piece is a mixture of styles; the faster movements are real virtuosic gems and the sonata was new to me. I love it.
The third movement of the Krebs sonata is also virtuosic, and my only complaint is that it is too short.
My favorite piece on the recording is the performed as the last track: Bach’s Fugue for violin, BWV 1026. My only other recording was made by Goebel with MAK. I am not sure Pramsohler’s performance is any better than Goebel’s, who (again) plays slightly faster. I’d wager that Goebel’s reading has more finesse, where Pramsohler likely has a slight advantage with intonation. Both are enjoyable, with Pramsohler’s sounding louder and clearer (no doubt with more modern digital recording technology).
This release is a no-brainer if you’re a fan of baroque violin sonatas with and without continuo. I welcome more releases from this exciting new recording artist.