Bach: Violin Sonatas

Bach: Sonatas
Plamena Nikitassova & Peter Waldner
Musik Museum 46, CD13045. 74’30

This recording is one of a series produced by the Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum in Innsbruck. Although the title is just ‘Sonaten’, the programme is actually a selection of Violin Sonatas, three with obligato harpsichord (BWV 1016, 1017 & 1019), one for solo violin (BWV 1005) and an arrangement, possibly by Bach, of the first movement of that solo sonata for harpsichord (BWV 968).

Plamena Nikitassova plays the c1676 Jakob Stainer ‘Diabelli’violin owned by the Landesmuseum, named after a previous owner. Stainer was a local violin maker, but was known well beyond the Tyrol, including by Bach and his circle. Unfortunately, the 19th-century alterations to the violin have not been changed, although gut strings were used for this recording and do help to make the sound a little more authentic. The playing of Plamena Nikitassova, however, is splendidly authentic. Although initially trained in modern violin, she moved into the world of early music. Her use of articulation and sensitive phrasing is exemplary.

Peter Waldner plays a 2006 copy of the so-called “Bach harpsichord” by Johann Heinrich Harraß in the Berlin Musikinstrumenten-Museum. It is thought that Bach owned, or had access to, a harpsichord by Harrass and that it included a 16’ stop. it is very much open to conjecture as to when, and if, he ever used such a stop and, if so, in what circumstances. I suggested they would not have been the two occasions when it is used on this recording. The solo Adagio from BWV 968 (an arrangement of the solo violin movement heard on track 5)) is played in a particularly bombastic mood, as was the extended harpsichord solo in the middle of BWV 1019. That is given an extraordinarily powerful reading by Waldner, and seems particularly out of place amongst the surrounding more delicate movements.

The recording was made in the church of the Seminary of the Diocese of Innsbruck and Feldkirch in Innsbruck – an attractive acoustic.