Unlike Classic FM-friendly favourites like 'Air on a G String', and the Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1, the Six Sonatas for Harpsichord and Violin BWV 1014-1019 are little known. Too dark, too astringent, too chromatic. All of which is why any Bach enthusiast worth his or her salt should be intrigued by these other 'black pearls' in Herr Bach's canon.
The performance given by Manson and Koopman is pure class. The recording is pinprick sharp in detail, gorgeously spacious in its 'sound stage', and with a balance that sits plum in the sweet spot. Koopman is wonderfully restrained - there are ornaments and trills galore, but it never feels excessive or showboating (and God knows Koopman is guilty of such musical misdemeanours in the past, what professionals call Lang Lang Syndrome). Indeed, the harpsichord has never sounded so endearing to these ears. Manson meanwhile, a member of the London Haydn Quartet, has effortless technique and the kind of mellifluous tone that could make a HIP convert of Bernard Michael O'Hanlon.
What can you expect? Take BWV 1014. It opens with a harpsichord riffing and then, ingeniously, the violin enters on one long held note that is a crescendo, appearing out of the æther, as if Bach were tuning into the background radiation of the cosmos. The leitmotif here is plangent keening. It is utterly mesmerising. Long held notes, sublime double-stops, and a melody with infinite reach, as searching as a Fibonacci spiral. There is also jollity and rhythmic fervour - you know how Bach likes to mix it up for Affekt, baby!
If you like baroque melancholy and jubilee, superb musicianship, and holding 'infinity in the palm of your hand, eternity in an hour', this disc is a must.