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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Domestic Bach
Sonata in G (after BWV 1029 and 1039) [13:52]
Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (BWV 731) [2:31]
Trio sonata in d minor (BWV 1027): andante [5:52]
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 645) [3:46]
Menuet in G (BWV Anh 114) [1:31]
So oft ich meine Tobackspfeife (BWV 515a) [5:04]
Polonaise in g minor (BWV Anh 125) [1:35]
Menuet in G (BWV Anh 116) [1:41]
Marche in D (BWV Anh 122) [1:06]
[Polonaise] in d minor (BWV Anh 128) [1:09]
Aria in d minor (BWV 515) [1:34]
Musette in D (BWV Anh 126) [1:43]
Partita in a minor (BWV 1013): sarabande in d minor [4:46]
Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz (BWV 516) [1:22]
Rondeau in B flat (BWV Anh 183) [3:17]
Musicalisches Opfer (BWV 1079): Canon a 2 per Tonos 'Ascendenteque Modulationis ascendat Gloria Regis' [3:06]
Fuga canonica in epidiapente [2:15]
Bist du bei mir (BWV 508) [1:58]
Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten (BWV 691) [1:59]
Bergen Barokk (Mona Julsrud (soprano), Frode Thorsen (recorder), Mikko Perkola, Markku Luolajan-Mikkola (viola da gamba), Hans Knut Sveen (harpsichord))
rec. 10-13 December 2012, Vaksdal Church, Norway. DDD
Texts and translations included
LAWO LWC1073 [62:29]

This disc was inspired by the wide-spread practice of music-making at home. "The numerous handwritten notebooks from the 1600s and 1700s, which could follow a family over generations, clearly document an extraordinary mix of demanding sonatas and church music, simple spiritual songs and dances performed and taught in the homes of cultured citizens"; so states Frode Thorsen in the liner-notes to the present disc. The best-known example of such a notebook is the Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach which comprises two manuscripts dating from 1722 and 1725 respectively. Most pieces on the programme have been taken from this collection.

The performers have selected other pieces from Bach's oeuvre and adapted them for their own instruments. There is no fundamental objection to that: Bach himself adapted his music for other scorings. The disc opens with such a piece: the Sonata in G (BWV 1039) for two transverse flutes and bc - not in g minor, as the liner-notes say - also exists in a version for viola da gamba and obbligato harpsichord, catalogued as BWV 1027. It is played here in a mixture of both versions on recorder and viola da gamba. The aria 'Ich habe genug' from Cantata BWV 82, scored for alto, oboe, strings and bc, is included in the Notenbüchlein in a scoring for solo voice and bc. However, it is not quite clear what exactly was the leading thought behind the concept of this disc.

Frode Thorsen rightly criticises the tendency to isolate Bach from his time. "There is an almost unspoken romanticised notion among musicians, researchers and the listening public that the genius of this master's works, unlike those of his contemporaries, must be understood and respected in the context of complete and perfect compositions. To tamper with these works would somehow compromise this perfection. However, this is not the way the master himself would have seen it (...). Like some of his contemporaries, he would not be averse to re-use his own material (often called musical parody)". This leads to the argument in favour of arranging Bach's works. However, there is actually a difference between Bach and many of his contemporaries: most of his music was never published. It is therefore highly unlikely that "cultured citizens" knew the pieces recorded here, let alone included them in their personal notebooks. From a historical point of view that leaves only one approach: performing the music as it might have been performed in the Bach household. From that perspective some of the choices in regard to scoring are rather questionable.

The recorder plays a considerable part in the programme. The Notenbüchlein includes various dances which are attributed to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Most of them are played with recorder and harpsichord. Considering the relative small role of the recorder in Bach's oeuvre - he never composed a sonata for it - this seems a rather unlikely choice. The andante from the Trio sonata in d minor (BWV 527) for organ is played here with recorder, treble viol and bc. The use of a treble viol is debatable: as far as I know Bach never used this instrument in his compositions, in contrast to someone like Telemann.

That said there is not that much wrong with the performances; these are all fine artists. However, there are some issues which can't be overlooked. Really bad is the Musette in D (track 15) which includes many glissandi. It sounds ugly, and this practice seems historically unfounded, certainly in Bach's music. Mikko Perkola plays the sarabande from the Partita in a minor (BWV 1013) for transverse flute solo, here transposed to D minor. That is an interesting option: many years ago Frans Brüggen and some of his colleagues recorded Bach's flute sonatas and in addition presented various movements of this piece in other scorings, for instance with cello piccolo and with viola. However, Perkola's performance is rather bland.

Mona Julsrud is a fine singer who is involved in Bergen Barokk's complete recording of Telemann's Harmonischer Gottesdienst. She sings the vocal items here nicely but I noticed several errors in the text. In Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme she sings "kommt" instead of "kömmt" and in So oft ich meine Tobackspfeife "Tabakspfeife" instead of "Tobackspfeife" and "farben" instead of "färben". In the two first cases it is a contrast between original and modern German, in the latter it is simply wrong: "farben" is not a verb in German.

If you are not too critical you may enjoy this disc.

Johan van Veen



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