Official Release: 16 July 2021
Sonatas BWV 1015, 1018 and 1019, recorded in this CD, crown the complete recording of Bach’s Sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord, along with BWV 1014, 1016 and 1017 (as well as BWV 1023 for violin and continuo) found in the first volume. They belong in a splendid series composed by Bach during the period he spent in Köthen (1717/1723). Those years were particularly felicitous for the quantity, quality and inspiration of the works he wrote. In particular, the works indicated as 1014 to 1019 were composed between 1718 and 1722. The corpus of these six Sonatas is currently considered as a somewhat homogeneous series, since they have been collected and published jointly. However, the composer did not envisage them originally with this vision. In fact, even though they can all be counted among the “Sonate a tre” typical for seventeenth-century music, each presents precise features of its own, marking it with originality and abundance of ideas. Seeing, and obviously hearing, the six Sonatas as a whole, provokes in the listener the same wonder elicited by the Six Brandenburg Concertos. These were also written in those same years; here, analogously, Bach, proposes for each a formal structure which is somewhat similar (since they all are “concertos” for many instruments) but finding musical and timbral results which are always different and unique.
Following this premise, therefore, listening to each Sonata represents, for the audience, a mine of diverse approaches, differing for variety and inspiration, in a fascinating itinerary through Bach’s musical universe.
Keeping into account – as previously hinted – that they possess a structure analogous to that of the seventeenth-century “Sonate a tre”, in some cases the bass line could be doubled by another instrument (i.e. a viola da gamba). This practice is actually never employed, nowadays, for these Sonatas, given the richness and complexity of both the violin and (especially) the harpsichord part.
Also in these three Sonatas, indeed, the obbligato harpsichord not only enters into a dialogue of peers with the bowed instrument in the intertwining of the parts (the violin and the harpsichordist’s right and left hand); rather, in some cases, it assumes a dominant role, requiring technical skills and control which only expert performer possess, yesterday as today. We should dutifully remember that the most famous musician among Johann Sebastian’s children, i.e. Carl Philipp Emanuel, was probably the best harpsichordist of his time. His father knew, therefore, that what he had in mind could find an adequate performer.
This awareness helps us to understand the particular case represented by BWV 1019: here, the solo harpsichord is granted a full movement over a total number of five. It also frees itself from the formal scheme of the Church Sonatas found in the other works, which are structured following the typical alternation of the four movements, “slow-quick-slow-quick”.
Sonata BWV 1015 (A major), after a first movement (“Dolce”) in an undulating 6/8 tempo, displays in its second movement the features of a typical Fugato. This had already been observed in other Sonatas of the collection. Unexpectedly, here a 20-bars long section appears, where a long E is sustained at the bass, and over which Bach himself requests to the violinist to realize (through the indication of “arpeggio”) a series of open chords. Then, it resumes (in a kind of an A-B-A scheme) the thirty initial measures, which close the movement. This could be one case where the presence of a viola da gamba could allow for a more efficacious sustaining of the long tone of the bass. On the keyboard instrument, in fact, the need for repeating this note is an unavoidable necessity. The third movement (Andante un poco) placidly flows in the form of a Canon. A similar scheme, but with more energy, is found in the concluding Allegro, which is also a fugato as happens in five out of six sonatas (also in this case the sixth piece, i.e. BWV 1019, is exceptional).
Respecting each Sonata’s own originality and inspiration, as previously hinted, the first movement of Sonata BWV 1018 (F minor), doubtlessly long (with its 108 bars) is the only one where there is an evident polyphonic structure in four parts. Here too a nobility and solemnity emerges in the voice-leading of the melodic ideas, as well as in the modulations. They stand comparison with important vocal-instrumental pieces by Bach, in particular bringing to the listener’s mind an evident melodic idea found in Motet BWV 229. It is interesting to observe that, in one manuscript, this movement bears the indication “lamento” instead of the “dolce” found in the printed editions. This particular may help us in order to better understand the “affect” which Bach wished to represent. Also in this Sonata, the second movement is a dynamic fugato where violin and harpsichord chase each other in an exalted string of sixteenth-notes. The third movement is particular and somewhat surprising. In this 27-bars-long Adagio, the violin inexorably plays a series of bichords, creating a series of modulations which are a genius’ work. They are supported by an ostinato accompaniment which is equally rhythmically unvaried. However, thanks to the composer’s unique genius, this does not cause boredom or foreseeability.
In this Sonata, as before, the fourth movement is an enthralling Fugato. In this case, it is in a lively 3/8 tempo, where the upbeat theme causes a continuing elan to the voice leading, and does not find, up to the very last bar, any moment of seeming quiet and lack of energy.
Sonata BWV 1019 (G major) closes the series. It contains some details in its overall structure which make it surprising and almost unique in its genre. For a time, it was not considered with any certainty to be an original work by Bach. This musicological doubt is nowadays definitively dispelled; however, it came to us in three versions. It is thought that the last one, from the Köthen period, had been considered as the definitive version by Bach himself, and therefore it is the version we decided to record here. The first movement, Allegro, can be assimilated to a first movement of a concerto for solo instrument and strings, due to the rhythmical structure of its melodic cells, to the bass line and to the dialogue among the parts. It echoes the most beautiful examples of this genre written by Bach. The unusual odd-numbered structure in the division of the movements allows Bach to build a form with precise symmetric rules. A meditative Largo, just 21 bars long, precedes and introduces an unforeseen movement, i.e. a lively Allegro for solo harpsichord. Here the composer seems to wish to pay homage to the keyboard instrument by making it the protagonist of a few minutes. It represents a kind of a watershed between a symbolic first and a second part, each of which is made of two movements.
When the exaltation of the keyboard instrument is over, a solemn and processional Adagio reintroduces the dialogue between the two soloists, before the last and seemingly unstoppable Allegro. The keys’ series is also symmetrical: the first and the last movement joyfully define the key of G major, while the central movements are written in its relative key of E minor.
Piero Barbareschi © 2021
Mario Hossen. Hossen received his musical education in Sofia, Vienna and Paris. He made his debut as a soloist with an orchestra at the age of eight. His teachers included great pedagogues such as Michael Frischenschlager and Gérard Poulet. Mario Hossen is the artistic director of the Camerata Orphica and founder of the International Music Academy Orpheus in Vienna. Hailed for his incredible virtuosity and charismatic stage presence, Hossen plays a repertoire that ranges all the way from Renaissance to Classic music to contemporary works and Jazz. As a concert soloist of international acclaim, Mario Hossen has performed with renowned orchestras such as the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, the Orchestra della Scala di Milano, the Royal Philharmonic, the Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Sofia Philharmonic and the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie. Hossen has performed with outstanding musicians like Bruno Canino, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Philippe Bernold, Nayden Todorov, Borislav Ivanov, Leslie Howard, Adrian Oetiker, Gérard Causse, Roy Goodman, Vladimir Mendelssohn, Boris Mersson, Leon Bosch, Dominique de Williencourt, Georges Pludermacher and Jean-Bernard Pommier - among others. Several contemporary composers have dedicated works to him and he has commissioned works to Tomas Marco, Rainer Bischof, Walter Baer, Gheorghi Arnaoudov, Francois-Oierre Descamps and Alessandro Solbiati. Hossen’s musicological and artistic endeavors are focused among other things on source research on Niccolo Paganini. The complete oeuvre of Paganini for solo violin and for violin and orchestra will be released as a historical-critical edition by Doblinger Music Publisher Vienna.
Piero Barbareschi: born in La Spezia, he studied piano with Martha Del Vecchio and harpsichord with Anna Maria Pernafelli, having a diploma from the “Cherubini” conservatory in Firenze with the highest votes. Interested to different forms of expression and artistic collaboration, both with piano and harpsichord, he performs as a soloist but also in different chamber orchestras. He worked with prestigious soloists such as the violin players Felix Ayo, Cristiano Rossi, Franco Mezzena, Thomas Christian, Thomas Schrott, Mario Hossen, the flautists Mario Ancillotti and Mario Carbotta, the mezzo soprano Susanne Kelling, in the most important italian and foreign countries (France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and USA), as guest of important institutions and Festivals. His repertory goes from the '600 to the authors of the '900 and contemporaries, including first absolute performances. Founder member with Marcello Defant of the barocco ensemble “Officina de li Affetti”, he worked with a great number of orchestras such as Sammartini Orchestra of Milan, the Filarmonici of Torin, the chamber orchestra of Fiesole, the Virtuosi of Pargue. Salzburg Chamber Soloists, Orchester Konservatorium Bern, Jugendsinfonieorchester of Potsdam, the Filarmonici of Verona, Vox Aurae, International Orchestra of Italy, Interpreti Italiani, Wiener Kammer Orchester etc. with different directors: Rudolf Barshai, Giuseppe Garbarino, Lonnie Klein, Federico Maria Sardelli, Diego Fasolis. Member of the board for the ECYO selections, he also made recordings for the RAITV and for companies such as Brilliant Classics, Nuova Era, Dynamic and Musikstrasse, publishing, for this last company, a double CD with the full of the six Quintetti op. 56 of Luigi Boccherini, together with Quartetto Elisa ( first recording in Italy). He also made for the Tactus the first modern recording of two concerts for piano and strings orchestra of Simon Mayr. He recorded with Mario Hossen for the Da Vinci Classics label the integral of J.S.Bach's sonatas for violin and cembalo and Haendel sonatas for violin and cembalo. Registered to the list of journalists as a publicist, he works for the musical divulgation with guided audiences, conferences, articles and is a member of the editorial staff of www.gothicnetwork.org, italian artistic review portal.
Johann Sebastian Bach: (b Eisenach, 21 March 1685, d Leipzig; 28 July 1750). Composer and organist. The most important member of the family, his genius combined outstanding performing musicianship with supreme creative powers in which forceful and original inventiveness, technical mastery and intellectual control are perfectly balanced. While it was in the former capacity, as a keyboard virtuoso, that in his lifetime he acquired an almost legendary fame, it is the latter virtues and accomplishments, as a composer, that by the end of the 18th century earned him a unique historical position. His musical language was distinctive and extraordinarily varied, drawing together and surmounting the techniques, the styles and the general achievements of his own and earlier generations and leading on to new perspectives which later ages have received and understood in a great variety of ways.
The first authentic posthumous account of his life, with a summary catalogue of his works, was put together by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel and his pupil J.F. Agricola soon after his death and certainly before March 1751 (published as Nekrolog, 1754). J.N. Forkel planned a detailed Bach biography in the early 1770s and carefully collected first-hand information on Bach, chiefly from his two eldest sons; the book appeared in 1802, by when the Bach Revival had begun and various projected collected editions of Bach’s works were underway; it continues to serve, together with the 1754 obituary and the other 18th-century documents, as the foundation of Bach biography.