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Harmonia Mundi

Code-barres / Barcode : 3149020938782


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Reviewer: Mark Seow

The unexpected gem of this album is the non-Sonata offering from Cantata No 5,Wo soll ich fliehen hin. The aria – originally for tenor, obbligato viola and continuo – is expertly transformed, presumably by harpsichordist Masato Suzuki, into the texture of the sonata partnership. Suzuki does the job of tenor and more: his phrases are stunningly articulated, teeming with nuance and character. The section in the relative minor is particularly delightful. In the original version, the tenor has a melisma of 48 semiquavers on the word ‘wäschet’ – a musical representation of the ‘göttliche Quelle’ that washes away the stains of the sinner. Suzuki handles this phrase, which in this arrangement could easily become a demonstration of moto perpetuo drill, with the subtle shaping and minutiae of timing and touch that are the hallmarks of a master harpsichordist.

Antoine Tamestit makes a luscious sound too. His playing is bold and elegant – everything you would expect from an international solo viola player, of which there are only a handful on a good year. The Allegro ma non tanto from the Sonata in G, BWV1027, is buoyant, and Tamestit on the ‘Mahler’ Stradivarius of 1672 makes a resplendent sound. But there are moments, particularly during contrapuntal exchange, when I wonder whether this is a true synthesis of styles at work. Tamestit leaves ties – a ubiquitous rhythmic feature in Bach’s counterpoint – with an accent, demonstrating a prioritisation of rhythmic precision over rhythmic flow or tactus. A small critique in some respects but one that is microcosmic of a tension between the duo partners. In the Vivace from the Sonata in G minor, BWV1029, Tamestit consistently gives emphasis through elongation and swell, Suzuki through a finely tuned interplay of articulation and time. It is not simply that Tamestit and Suzuki play different instruments, both of which afford different tools of emphasis, but rather that the result here, despite the absolutely gorgeous playing throughout, is a not a meeting of minds.

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