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Reviewer: Charlotte Gardner

Bach’s output abounds with instances of his revisiting older works to arrange them for different forces, so there’s an extent to which his compositions can legitimately be seen as fair game for modern-day Baroque players on the prowl for fresh repertoire.

So here come Jan Van Hoecke and Jovanka Marville, transcribing the organ sonatas BWV525 and 527‑30 for recorder and keyboard, and in commendably scholarly fashion. For instance, their solution to the woodwind-unfriendly wide leaps of BWV528 was to retrace Bach’s own compositional steps to find an earlier version with narrower leaps. There’s also Van Hoecke’s choice of recorders; these are not flamboyant sonatas, so the decision to stick to the woodpigeon‑esque softness of alto and tenor instruments feels apt.

There’s a ‘but’ coming, and it’s in the shape of the fortepiano, modelled on a 1749 Silbermann model Bach is said to have known, which replaces the harpsichord for BWV527 and 528. On paper this rather appealed for the colouristic interest it might bring. However, repeated listens leave me of the opinion that the writing in these sonatas simply isn’t an idiomatic fit for the instrument; walking basses sound heavy, while busier right-hand passages sound stodgy (BWV528’s Allegro) or, when the pedal is employed, full of notes bleeding uncomfortably into each other (BWV528’s Adagio).

Still, I wouldn’t want to write off the whole disc on account of a pedalsome fortepiano. At the very least it’s a debating point, and the other three sonatas with harpsichord come off beautifully.


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