Jonathan Manson & Trevor Pinnock

Sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord – in G, BWV1027; in D, BWV1028; in G minor, BWV 1029
Louis Couperin
Pièces de clavecin – Prélude; La Pastourelle; Volta; Canaries
La Labyrinthe
Gavotte et doubles

Jonathan Manson (viola da gamba) & Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord)

Reviewed by: Alan Pickering

Reviewed: 30 June, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

This was an interesting and enjoyable evening with two virtuosos playing to their very best, demonstrating consummate skill on two modern copies of baroque instruments – the viola da gamba by Curtis Bryant, from 1978, and the harpsichord from four years later, courtesy of David Way. The ambience of the Wigmore Hall with its ‘stately home’ feel added immeasurably to the atmosphere.

The three JS Bach sonatas, here interspersed with music by three of his French contemporaries, although not composed as a cycle, are similar stylistically in that, in each of them, Bach’s embellishments give not only elegance but mystery as well. What is less mysterious is the way Bach used both instruments to interweave his various themes to a breathtaking degree – the result was quite beautiful with the wonderfully sonorous tone of the 7-string viola da gamba adding real depth to the more strident tones of the harpsichord.

The recital also featured solo harpsichord pieces by Louis Couperin and Rameau, the former displaying the full range of textures possible with the instrument and the Rameau being delightfully fruity and full of depth. Marin Marais’s Le Labyrinthe returned to the combination of gamba and harpsichord; a wonderful experience, the piece living up to its name as we were taken on a journey that, at times, seemed to lead to a dead end but which in conclusion left us fully satisfied.

It was a shame that the programme note concentrated on the Bach pieces with nothing at all to inform about the exploits of Bach’s French counterparts.

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