This recording contains an interesting selection of
works for oboe and harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach. Not all of
them were written for these instruments; the performers have arranged
some other works to suit them. The G minor sonata, a challenging work,
is most likely for oboe, even though it exists only in score for the
flute. And, with the exception of the Trio Sonata for organ, the other
works are not even necessarily by Bach. As with several of his chamber
music works, his authorship is not proven.
Nevertheless, the music on this disc is indeed interesting.
One high point is the performance for solo oboe of the flute sonata
in C major. Yet this, too, is an arrangement - Gail Hennessy has removed
the basso continuo and plays this alone, under the theory that Bach
originally wrote it as an unaccompanied piece. It works relatively well
in this manner, although the oboe is not an instrument that naturally
lends itself to solo performances.
Overall, this disc has one major weakness: the balance
between the oboe and harpsichord is such that the keyboard part is often
masked. The music was recorded with the oboe at centre stage, and the
harpsichord somewhat in the background. This is especially noticeable
in the Trio Sonata, where the harpsichord plays two of the three voices.
In addition, Hennessy’s instrument does not always have the nicest tone
- it can be harsh and abrasive in the higher register at strong volumes.
This gives the recording a somewhat uncomfortable feeling.
This is indeed odd, because a few months ago I had
the pleasure of reviewing another disc by Signum which was recorded
in a totally opposite manner. The recording of Bach’s sonatas for viola
da gamba and harpsichord, by Alison Crum and Laurence Cummings, is brilliant
for its recording. I wrote, "Most recordings of these sonatas feature
the harpsichord in a very subservient role - the gamba dominates, and
the harpsichord goes about its business in the background. Here, the
harpsichord and gamba are both on the same plane - after all, in the
first two sonatas, which are really trio sonatas, the harpsichord is
playing two-thirds of the music. This is a very gutsy choice, on the
part of the performers and/or the producer; yet it is entirely judicious."
Alas, here I am very disappointed that the same label did not use the
same style of recording. This would have compensated for the other weaknesses
on this disc.
This is an interesting disc, and one that is certainly
unique. The music is quite attractive, but the recording puts the harpsichord
too much in the background, giving a lack of balance that is unattractive.
Unfortunately, this original disc does not have enough qualities to