Bach Concertos

Bach Concertos
La Divina Armonia
Lorenzo Ghielmi, Mayumi Hiraski, Alice Rossi, Jan de Winne
Passacaille PAS 1019. 75’00

Concerto in A BWV 1055, Cantata: Non sa che sia dolore BWV 209, Concerto in E BWV 1042, Concerto in A Minor BWV 1044.
JS Bach: Concertos (BWV 1042,1044, 1052) & Cantata 'Non sa che sia Dolore' (BWV 209)This recording brings together three instrumental concertos (for harpsichord, violin and the ‘Triple Concerto’, which adds flute to the previous two), and a cantata that makes extensive use of a solo flute. Although not exactly treading new ground in terms of repertoire, this fine recording of some of Bach’s most bubbly music is well worth a listen, not least for an excellent performance of the cantata Non sa che sia dolore, with its prominent solo flute passages.

Of the three instrumental concertos, the Violin Concerto, BWV 1042, is the only one that is appearing in what is probably its original format. The other two concertos are Bach’s arrangements of his own pieces for performance at his Leipzig Collegium Musicam. The opening Concert in A (BWV 1055) was originally for oboe d’amore (and probably composed in Köthen), but Bach made several additions to score for this later version for harpsichord solo. Likewise the concluding so called ‘Triple Concerto’ (a much later name), stemmed from an earlier harpsichord piece, which was then combined with a lovely central Adagio from one of his famous Trio Sonatas for organ. The jury is out as to whether Bach himself made this version, or one of his students, or his son CPE Bach.

None of this is particularly relevant to the enjoyment of this music. A far more interesting discussion can be had on Bach’s reworking of some of his very secular cantatas into some of his most spiritually intense works. Although generally composing for the ‘glory of God’, he saw nothing wrong in amending words in praise of a local aristocrat, or the town council, into a text in praise of God.

Those already familiar with the instrumental pieces will be delighted with the cantata Non sa che sia dolore, here beautifully sung by Alice Rossi. She sings with conviction and clarity, her voice just avoided slipping into a more romantic mode. This is a secular cantata, using a rather oddly written Italian libretto, possibly a student of Bach’s who was a flautist and an Italian speaker to celebrate his graduation in theology and medicine. The flute features in the opening Sinfonia and duets with the singer in the concluding aria.

In the triple concerto, Lorenzo Ghielmi demonstrates meticulous timing in his filigree solo passages, but balances this with a sensitively musical relaxation of pulse and subtle attenuation of articulation in the more languid moments – and in the concluding cadenza. He combines fine playing with musical direction of his small forces, eliciting a sparklingly clear articulation and a close focus of sound in a friendly acoustic. The balance between the three instruments is perfect, as it is in the two solo concertos and in the expansive Sinfonia of the cantata. Recommended.

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