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This is, quite simply, a delightful recording. Robert King, who plays harpsichord and chamber organ throughout, has ‘repurposed’ JS Bach’s six organ trios as trio sonatas. There are five different configurations of melody instruments on offer here but the standout arrangements are those for two violins – the Sonata in G, after BWV530, which opens the disc, and the Sonata in D, after BWV525. King landed himself two of the best Baroque violinists in the business, and it pays off. Kati Debretzeni and Huw Daniel make a gleaming sound. In the opening Allegro of the Sonata in G, their counterpoint is expressively conversational. Theirs is an eloquent dance of perfectly judged give-and-take, of decorum yet personality. In the central Balance is not so perfectly achieved in the other instrumental combinations. In the Sonata in D minor, after BWV527, Frances Norbury’s oboe-playing is delectably pungent: laser-focused in intensity and yet somehow stretchy – delightfully so – at its melodic and rhythmic seams. Nonetheless, she occasionally overpowers Debretzeni’s line. When Norbury moves to oboe d’amore for the Sonata in E minor, after BWV528, this is better balanced against the viola-playing of Rose Redgrave. But with the ensemble’s intonation issues in the last movement, this is the weakest moment of the album.
Though never quite coming apart, this performance feels dangerously close to requiring a reset.
By the Largo of the Sonata in D minor, after BWV528, we’re back on fabulous ground. Here the playing of cellist Robin Michael is sumptuously subdued. He stirs all sorts of emotional content from Bach’s yearning bass line, gathering depth to turn harmonic corners, then backing off into the shadows when it’s nothing more than a stock cadence (though, as it’s Bach, it’s rarely so off-the-peg, really). This is bassline playing of the highest quality.
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