Jonathan Manson

Written by: Colin Anderson

For Jonathan Manson, a virtuoso of the viola da gamba, the instrument’s “sonority is characterised by a unique marriage of transparency and warmth. The combination of gut strings, frets and underhand bowing lend the instrument a special intimacy and directness of expression.” At the Wigmore Hall on June 30, Jonathan plays JS Bach’s “three magnificent sonatas for viola da gamba, in which the gamba acts as a middle voice, sandwiched between the bass and treble voices of the harpsichord: the three resulting parts are in constant dialogue, sometimes playful and exultant, sometimes deeply poignant, but always equal.”

As well as Bach’s “masterpieces, we have interleaved them with pieces written by his great French contemporaries, Couperin, Marin Marais and Rameau. Bach was greatly influenced by French musical styles, and the harpsichord and viola da gamba were the pre-eminent solo instruments at the magnificent court of Louis XIV. Couperin and Rameau wrote exquisite pieces for solo harpsichord, while Marin Marais, as the foremost gambist of his day, chose the programmatic theme of escaping from a musical labyrinth to show off his extraordinary compositional skill with a spectacular display of virtuosity and musical fireworks.”

Also lighting the blue-touch paper is harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock. “He and I have been playing together for ten years; our rich and rewarding musical friendship has led to recordings and concerts around the world.” Their new CD is just out (on Avie Records AV2093) and “includes the Bach sonatas that we will play at the Wigmore, plus a fourth written by Bach for an unknown instrumental combination, and usually heard on the flute.”

  • Concert, 30 June, Wigmore Hall

  • Wigmore Hall
  • Avie
  • The above article was published in “What’s On in London” on 29 June 2006 and is reproduced here with permission

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