Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Six Sonatas for violin and keyboard BWV 1014-1019 [42:05 + 46:07]
Michèle Auclair (violin)
Marie-Claire Alain (organ)
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR 546-547 [42:05 + 46:07]
If it’s still rare to find Bach’s sonatas for violin and keyboard played on the organ, it was certainly much more so back in 1956 when Michèle Auclair and Marie-Claire Alain recorded the set of six on two LPs. If you happen to have that Les Discophiles Français DF 209/210 LP, then let me suggest that, if in mint condition and with an intact, blemish free cover, you are sitting on a small goldmine. It goes for thousands, and probably ends up in Japan, home of the ultra-discriminating and well resourced string collector.
If you don’t have it, you will be relieved to know that Forgotten Records has come to your rescue. The organ was the Haepfer-Erman in Deauville and Marie-Claire Alain is careful to ensure that her registrations remain apposite, supportive, and deft. This is a constant feature of the set. It’s as true of the Andante of the First Sonata BWV1014 as it is of the beguilingly light Andante opening movement of the Second. In response Michèle Auclair, who could be a gutsy, high tensile player, quite voluptuous in ultra-romantic music, fines down her dramatic instincts and her tendency to push tempi. She plays with considerable elegance and indeed, sometimes, panache. There are some occasions when her rather fast vibrato intrudes, but I only really minded in the slow opening movement of No.3, BWV1016.
As to tempo considerations, it’s noteworthy that with some exceptions the violin-organ combination isn’t grossly slower than violin-harpsichord recordings. One might expect that to be the case, given the sound decay and the possible lack of coordination between the two instruments, but it’s only in the two slow movements of No.3 and the corresponding movements in No.5, BWV1018, that one can notice any slowing of tempi – and this is, in truth, more an expressive decision than one imposed by the employment of an organ.
There is considerable colour and distinction in these readings. Balances are well judged and the music making is at a high level. The transfers are equally fine. For those interested in this pairing, and in these performances from the 1950s, Forgotten Records has done a fine job of restoration.
Considerable colour and distinction. Music making at a high level. A fine restoration job.