The perennial problem with Bach's Sonatas for gamba and harpsichord is an acoustical one: the stringed instrument is capable of much greater power, variety, presence, expressive detail and - of course - sustain than its keyboard partner. This makes these pieces, in which both instruments must operate on equal terms, a minefield for both harpsichordists and recording engineers, if the harpsichord is not to be thoroughly upstaged by the gamba.
This is one of the very few recordings I know that has solved this problem completely, both by appropriate acoustical setting and by Aapo Häkkinen's exceptionally expressive harpsichord playing, rich in agogic accents and detailed articulation and ornamentation. This is not to suggest that gambist Mikko Perkola is not an equal artist, however, and the other crucial virtue of this recording are the relaxed tempi and bold delineation of expressive gestures both players have agreed on, allowing both instruments - and Bach's dense interweaving of harmony and counterpoint - a generous amount of time to "speak" fully, without losing either momentum or rhetorical fantasy.
The instruments themselves are both extremely resonant, gravitational and rather dark-toned, lending an appropriately introspective intimacy to the performances. Slow movements seem to stretch into infinity, while fast movements genuinely dance, as opposed to just rushing by in a superficial blur.
The "fillers" on this recording are little gems in their own right, but the disk would be more than worth its asking price even without them. Naxos has finally completely solved the problem of getting genuinely world-beating performances out into the market at a bargain: long may they continue to surpass themselves...