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"Bach & Co"

Sébastien Marq, recordera; Jean Brégnac, transverse fluteb; Emmanuel Laporte, oboec; Thibault Noally, violin
Les Accents
Dir: Thibault Noally

rec: Nov 1 - 3, 2017, Paris, Eglise de Bon Secours (Little Tribeca)
Aparté - AP206 (© 2019) (70'18")
Liner-notes: E/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Concerto for violin, strings and bc in g minor (BWV 1056R); Concerto for violin, strings and bc in a minor (BWV 1041); Johann Friedrich FASCH (1688-1758): Concerto for oboe, violin, strings and bc in d minor (FWV L,d4)c; Christoph FÖRSTER (1693-1745): Concerto for violin, strings and bc in g minor; Johann Gottlieb (?) GRAUN (1703-1771): Concerto for recorder, violin, strings and bc in C (GraunWV Cv,XIII,96)a; Johann David HEINICHEN (1683-1729): Concerto for oboe, violin, strings and bc in c minor (S 240)c; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Concerto for transverse flute, violin, strings and bc in e minor (TWV 52,e3)b; Concerto for two violins, strings and bc in C (TWV 52,C2)d

Alexandrine Caravassilis, Christophe Robert, Koji Yoda, Claire Sottovia (solod), Charlotte Grattard, Paula Waisman, violin; Lika Laloum, Marie-Aude Guyon, viola; Elisa Joglar, Anne-Garance Fabre dit Garrus, cello; Roberto Fernandez de Larrinoa, double bass; Mathieu Dupouy, harpsichord

The 18th century was the age of the solo concerto. The first specimens of this kind were from the pen of Giuseppe Torelli, but the twelve concertos Op. 3, which Antonio Vivaldi published in 1711 under the title L'Estro Armonico, were much more influential. In this collection the principal violin was given a solo role, and in some of his concertos he added further solo parts.

The development of the solo concerto is closely connected to the birth of the public concert. During the 17th century such events took place, such as the Abendmusiken in Lübeck under Dieterich Buxtehude, but not on a regular basis. Among the first regular concert series were those of the Concert Spirituel in Paris, from 1725 until the French Revolution. In Venice, visitors did never fail to attend the concerts of the girls of the Ospedale della Pietŕ, for whom Vivaldi composed most of his solo concertos. In Leipzig public concerts were given by the Collegium Musicum, which were directed by the likes of Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Sebastian Bach.

Composers wrote solo concertos of different technical requirements. Those which were published, usually in collections of six, were often within the grasp of good amateurs, but in the course of time an increasing number of solo concertos were written which were intended for professional players. One has to rank Bach's concertos among this category. He adapted early concertos for one to three harpsichords for performance by himself and his gifted sons at the public concerts at Zimmermann's Kaffeehaus in Leipzig. Composers started to write solo concertos for specific virtuosos on their instrument, either colleagues in the orchestra in which they were participating or virtuosos passing by during their concert tours.

As its title indicates, the present disc includes concertos by Bach and some of his contemporaries. He himself is represented with one of his best-known and most popular concertos, the Concerto for violin in a minor. The other solo concerto from his pen is a reconstruction of one of his harpsichord concertos. It is not always known for sure what the original scoring may have been. In the case of the Concerto in g minor it is assumed that it was intended for the violin, but scholars tend to think that the slow movement has rather the features of an oboe concerto. It is played here on the violin.

The remaining works on the programme are nearly all double concertos. Johann David Heinichen was Kapellmeister in Dresden, and composed a considerable number of concertos for various combinations of instruments. It seems that the former ensemble Musica antiqua Köln, directed by Reinhard Goebel, was the first to pay attention to this corpus of instrumental music. Its recording also included the Concerto in c minor, of which only one movement has survived.

Telemann expressed his reservation towards the solo concerto, and generally the Italian style, of which it was a product, because of the importance of virtuosity and - in his view - a lack of good harmony. It did not prevent him from composing a little under one hundred concertos for different instruments or combinations of instruments. One of the features of his oeuvre in general also manifests itself in this part of his oeuvre: unconventional combinations of instruments. The juxtapostion of violin and transverse flute in the Concerto in e minor is one of the less extreme examples. The most notable movement is the third, which is entirely for violin. It is a virtuosic part with double stopping, a bit of a rarity in Telemann's oeuvre. More obvious is the scoring of the Concerto in C for two violins. Here the middle movement (adagio) is notable for its expression. It is one of the relatively few concertos with three movements. Telemann generally preferred the four-movement form; the Concerto in e minor comprises even five.

Especially in the concertos by Fasch and Graun we notice the growing popularity of the galant idiom, which manifests itself in the almost complete lack of counterpoint in the tutti sections. These are dominated by homophony, and often the instruments play in unison. The solo instruments sometimes imitate each other, but also frequently play in parallel motion. Fasch was for most of his life in the service of the court in Zerbst, and he may have written his concertos for his own use there. However, he was close friends with the above-mentioned Heinichen and the leader of the Dresden court orchestra, Johann Georg Pisendel, and spent some time there in 1727. It seems likely that his instrumental music was performed in Dresden. In the Concerto in d minor Fasch avoids virtuosity in the solo parts. In the middle movement (largo) the oboe and the violin largely play in parallel motion.

Like his brother Carl Heinrich, Johann Gottlieb Graun was in the service of the Prussian Crown Prince Frederick, later King Frederick the Great. Whereas his brother was a singer and mostly composed vocal music, Johann Gottlieb concentrated on the composition of instrumental works. However, as they usually signed their works with just 'Graun', it is not always possible to be sure which of them is the composer. That is also the case with the Concerto in C. It is remarkable for its scoring, as the recorder was becoming obsolete rather quickly during his lifetime, in favour of the transverse flute. It is the only piece by the Grauns which has a recorder part. This could well have been written with a specific player in mind. It is a relatively conservative piece; the violin part is considerably more virtuosic than the recorder part and includes double-stopping.

All the concertos included in the programme have been recorded before, except the Concerto in g minor by Christoph Förster, who is also the least-known composer on this disc. For some time he was a pupil of Heinichen and later took lessons from the organist Georg Friedrich Kauffmann. He worked in Merseburg, and was appointed vice-Kapellmeister at the court of Rudolstadt. Two years later he succeeded Johann Graf as Kapellmeister, but died two weeks after his appointment. He was very much respected in his time, especially as a composer of church music. He was also a leading exponent of the French overture. His extant oeuvre is very small, but includes (according to New Grove) at least twelve concertos. As very little of his oeuvre has been recorded, the inclusion of his Concerto in g minor is a substantial addition to the discography.

Although most of the concertos have been recorded before, many of them may not be familiar to most music lovers, even those who have a special liking of baroque music. This disc offers a nice portrait of the musical world of Johann Sebastian Bach. Heinichen, Fasch and Graun are still overshadowed by Bach and Telemann, and from that angle this disc is most welcome. Moreover, Thibault Noally is an excellent violinist, as he has proven before, for instance with his disc 'ŕ violino solo'. Here he has brought together a group of fine players who bring this repertoire to life. The playing is very lively, with strong dynamic accents and convincing choices of tempo. The only issue is probably the bass in the slow movement from Bach's Concerto in a minor which is a bit too loud and too prominent.

This is a disc every lover of baroque instrumental music will enjoy. It is to be hoped that Noally and his colleagues will further explore the large and only partially known repertoire of solo concertos in late-baroque Germany.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

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