Bach, Handel, Scarlatti: Gamba Sonatas

Bach, Handel, Scarlatti: Gamba Sonatas

by Steven Isserlis


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Bach, Handel, Scarlatti: Gamba Sonatas

None of the music on this release by cellist Steven Isserlis is played on the viola da gamba, and the majority of it was probably not even written for the instrument: the Bach "Sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord, BWV 1027," and perhaps the other two Bach sonatas, were originally written for other instruments. Nothing is done, however, that Bach or Handel might not have done, and the results are splendid. Isserlis' cello is not an imitation of the gamba, but a modern instrument, full-throated and warm in the slow movements. It is in the fugal outer movements of the Bach pieces, and in the inexorable forward movement of a transcribed Handel "Violin Sonata in G minor, HWV 364b," that Isserlis and harpsichordist Richard Egarr really excel; some of the Bach counterpoint, with Egarr flying high above Isserlis' singing cello (sample the opening movement of the Bach "Sonata in G minor, BWV 1029"), achieves a level of ecstasy heard in only the top level of Bach performances. The sonata by Domenico Scarlatti recorded here does not work quite as well; the evidence for the hypothetical violin part (here transcribed for cello) is rather thin, and the piece does not rest so well under the fingers as the balance of the music. The final set of variations is attractive, though, and it's rare that you get to hear Bach and Scarlatti, both born in 1685, in the same breath. The whole project, typical of Isserlis' programming boldness, is greater than the sum of its parts, and Hyperion's engineers outdo themselves at their favored chamber venue, Potton Hall in Suffolk. Highly recommended.

Product Details

Release Date: 09/11/2015
Label: Hyperion Uk
UPC: 0034571280455
catalogNumber: 68045
Rank: 159777


  1. Sonata for viola da gamba & keyboard No. 2 in D major, BWV 1028
  2. Sonata for viola da gamba & keyboard No. 3 in G minor, BWV 1029

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