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Finally, some balance!,
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This review is from: Bach: The Six Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord (Audio CD)
A sleeve note written by Burnett James for a ?1950s Erato / World Record Club recording (of sonatas BWV 1021 - 4) speculates from date evidence that the BWV 1014 - 9 sonatas were written `under the cloud of the death of Bach's first wife', Maria-Barbara. Burnett comments on the `depths of private sorrow' suggested by BWV 1014 - 9, and the opening of BWV 1014 as played by Glenn Gould does suggest private grief: the tempo is much slower than in other recordings I've heard and the spare, détachée style is dark and private. It's as if we have opened a door on a musician who was already playing for his own consolation. Even when Laredo enters, the tempo of this movement remains implacably steady. In all the sonatas there is a clear dialogue between equals with the voices yielding to each other or combining to reflect the musical interest. Laredo's intonation is not always above reproach, though: he tends to play flat in a couple of the sonatas.
Gould collaborated with Yehudi Menuhin in 1966 for a TV project which included the 4th sonata (BWV 1017). The sound track of this programme is on SMK 52 688 and there's no doubt here that in a collaboration with a musical personality as large as Menuhin Gould adopts a more conventional accompanying role. Other complete recordings also tend to give us the harpsichord muttering away in the background and the violin performing a near solo: very nice when a violinist has as lovely a sound as Grumiaux but it seems musically silly when the violin is simply holding a note for a couple of bars or doubling phrases from the harpsichord part.
The only recording I've found which approaches the equal balance in the Gould-Laredo one is by Walch and Szeryng from the 1970s but this has not been in the catalogue for many years. If you find the iconoclastic approach of Gould off-putting rather than stimulating then you might like to seek out Brush and Mikkelsen where the harpsichord part is played on the organ. No balance problems here!