While it is common to hear the violin sonatas and the flute sonatas of J.S. Bach performed with harpsichord accompaniment, it is unusual to find a recording where the same music has been transcribed for violin and harp. For their 2012 release on Ancalagon, violinist Lara St. John and harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet played the sonatas BWV 1014, 1016, 1020, 1030 and the Siciliana from BWV 1031, following a practice that Bach and other composers employed in the Baroque era (i.e., by adapting the music to the available musicians). As novel as these violin and harp arrangements may seem, the results are quite pleasing and easy to adjust to, despite the obvious fact that the modern pedal harp wasn't developed until the 19th century, which makes its use in Bach as anachronistic as a Steinway grand piano. Yet there is an equally obvious advantage in using the harp, because its volume and resonance are a good match with the violin, and the updated instrumentation makes the performances feel creative and intellectually involving because expectations are switched and the music is reimagined. St. John's playing is thoughtful and nuanced, though her expressive inflections include a slightly bent intonation that is sometimes in conflict with the harp's strict tuning; furthermore, Langlamet's tone is consistently lush and rounded, which might disconcert listeners who miss the secco quality of a harpsichord. But aside from these points, this is a refereshing take on Bach that shows some rethinking of the issues of historically informed practices of versus modern performances and shows there are more than just two ways to interpret the music.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Sonata No. 1 in B minor for Violin and Harpsichord, BWV 1014|
|Sonata No. 3 in E major for Violin and Harpsichord, BWV 1016|
|Sonata in G minor for Flute and Harsichord, BWV 1020|
|Sonata in B minor for Flute and Harpsichord, BWV 1030|
|Sonata in E flat major for Flute and Harpsichord, BWV 1031|