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Bach: Violin Sonatas


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  • Sample this album Artist - Artist (Sample)
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Disc 2
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9
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13
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14
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15
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16
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8ba8b5c4) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8bbb65dc) out of 5 stars Intense, sombre, well thought-out 7 Sept. 2004
By Leslie Richford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This recording, made in 1988 at Finchcocks in England, has received some rather scathing comments from some of my fellow music lovers at Amazon, and while admitting that this is anything but 'easy listening', I would like to try and verbalise my feeling that these two Cds are a lot better than they are sometimes given credit for. When I first purchased the set a few years ago, I too was at first somewhat shocked at the sound. John Holloway plays a gut-stringed copy of an Amati violin, tuned at a'=415 Hz, and gives a very intense, very sombre, well thought-out reading of this music, emphasizing its sheer musical genius and inventiveness but excluding anything in the way of levity or humour. If you are used to a modern violin or even a period instrument played less intensely (one might, in some places, add: less sharply), you may well react against the strictness and historicity of this sound. Davitt Moroney's harpsichord (and Bach has here written trio sonatas, so the harpsichord has a melody line in the right hand and the continuo in the left), a copy of one by Dulcken from 1743, sounds rather warmer. The engineering is good, placing Holloway firmly in the middle and Moroney to the right. The acoustics at the recording venue were, however, not ideal, and I found listening to the Cds on headphones rather more pleasing than over loudspeakers. (Perhaps I should also add that this recording only started sounding acceptable on relatively expensive hifi equipment; music like this has its price!).

In addition to the six sonatas as they are usually played, the set contains a number of additional pieces: some extra movements that Bach used in prior versions of sonata number 6 (you can programme them to listen to any one of three versions), and two sonatas for violin and basso continuo, BWV 1021 and 1023, that have long been ascribed to Bach and are really worth listening to. Holloway is accompanied on these by Davitt Moroney playing a copy of a 17th century chamber organ and Susan Sheppard on an 18th century cello.

John Holloway has been concert-master of the Taverner Players for many years and is one of England's leading period-instrument performers. Professor Davitt Moroney is well-known for his work on Bach's keyboard music, especially for his recording of 'The Art of Fugue'. They are both known for historical accuracy and meticulous performance, and I very much doubt that they would ever make a recording like this 'at sight', as one of their critics has suggested. Just listen to the detail on this recording, and you will see what work has gone into it!

If I were only allowed to possess one recording of these sonatas I would probably go for the old Deutsche Harmonia Mundi one with Sigiswald Kuijken and Gustav Leonhardt: it is much 'easier' listening. The Holloway/Moroney is a musicians' version that requires patience and a good deal of concentration to be thoroughly enjoyed.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b7c4e7c) out of 5 stars John Holloway scores with the Bach sonatas 7 Nov. 2013
By jt52 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This 1988 recording of JS Bach violin sonatas has grown on me the more I listened to it. I'd describe the interpretation by UK baroque violinist John Holloway and harpsichordist Davitt Moroney as full of humanity. Though the interpretation is understated in a typical Brit way, the emotion is there in finely-wrought detail and affection for the music.

The 2-CD set contains the famous 6 sonatas for violin and harpsichord, written most likely in the early 1720s, a period when Bach composed most of his instrumental music, as well as two other sonatas for violin and continuo, BWV 1021 and 1023, here done with an organ instead of a harpsichord. This choice of keyboard instrument is particularly suited for the Vivaldi-esqua opening of BWV 1023, a very attractive sonata which opens with a long florid violin line over a drone. The set also includes several movements which at times were included in the 6th sonata, a piece which was assembled as a hodgepodge, probably to reach the half dozen number (whatever its provenance, this 6th sonata is one of my favorites from this set).

I thought Holloway plays with a great deal of musicality throughout. A nice example of his style is the finale of the 2nd sonata, where Holloway provides a lively and sharply articulated performance. Moroney deserves credit for creating delicate textural and dynamic contrasts in the harpsichord, a part which can seem a bit uniform across the 6 sonatas without such effects. An example of this is the Adagio of the 5th sonata, where the dryer sound, almost like plucked strings, nicely complements Holloway's part . Likewise, Moroney's approach helps the Allegro of the 2nd sonata where his textural contrasts underline the soft-loud dynamic contrasts.

This is overall a thoughtful and rewarding interpretation. I have always held the classic Arthur Grumiaux recording (on Philips) as the standard-setter for the 6 Bach violin & keyboard sonatas but this Holloway version is just so appealing that it may have supplanted it. Though the other reviewers here have made negative comments about the sound quality of the release, due to some "clanginess" and a restricted soundstage, I didn't find it to be a problem. I'd characterize it as average 1980s digital engineering. The beauty of the music and the performance overrides any concerns. 5 stars.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b700228) out of 5 stars A Meeting of Two Baroque Minds 13 Jan. 2012
By M. De Sapio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I can't hope to defend the merits of this recording more eloquently than Leslie Richford has, but I would just like to second his approbation. I have listened to four period-instrument recordings of these sonatas - Holloway/Moroney, Podger/Pinnock, Van Dael/Van Asperen, and Biondi/Alessandrini - and this one is my favorite. John Holloway is ever the subtlest of Baroque violinists (just listen to his tasteful vibrato and gorgeous messa di voce!), and he and Davitt Moroney achieve a rare symbiosis, thinking and breathing as one. The recorded sound, it is true, is not glamorous, but quite clear and lifelike - I felt as if these two musicians were giving a recital in my room.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By esseyo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The acoustics is very dry, the sound is distant, the playing is uninspiring. It really seems as if the producers just grabbed hold of 3 great players, hired newbie sound engineers, gave them a couple days to practice for the recording session, and hoped for the best.

After reading the very very well written liner notes that the sonatas for violin and harpsichord should really be sonatas for harpsichord and violin, I was hoping to hear a prominent harpsichord. Instead the violin is far more prominent and the harpsichord is miked at such a low volume that it is more like bells chiming on a neighbor's front porch on a breezy summer day. This can't be recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8bbb6a38) out of 5 stars One of my favorites 4 Aug. 2013
By Ryan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I got this album five years ago, and I still listen to it occasionally. These interpretations are more meditative than lively, but this makes them well suited for listening when you're in that kind of mood.
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