Les Basses Réunies / Bruno Cocset

Bach: Sonatas, Chorales & Trios

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Here's one of those recordings that throws multiple unorthodox ideas at the listener; you don't think it could possibly work, but it has a unity that springs from creative intensity. French group Les Basses Réunies consists of Bruno Cocset, known as a cellist but here playing viols, plus a keyboard-and-contrabass continuo duo. The viols, in alto, tenor, and bass sizes, are "alla bastarda," a slippery term designating both an unorthodox way of playing a viol (hence the name) and eventually a new type of viol. They're copies of instruments from the seventeenth century, one of them pictured in the still life shown on the package and analyzed by art historian Dénis Grenier, an unusually direct correspondence between music and art among the releases in this series, which mostly have relied on abstract ideas. Cocset plays the three sonatas for viola da gamba and continuo, BWV 1027-1029. A seventeenth century viol brings a distinctively antique voice to these sonatas, but there are further surprises in store. Cocset embeds each sonata in a little trilogy beginning with a chorale prelude and ending with an organ trio sonata or, at the end, another chorale prelude -- all played by keyboard and viol, with or without double bass, with the viol taking over one line or one hand of the organ part. The whole project seems to take Bach's music merely as a point of departure for further creative activity, but Bach can stand up to a lot, and the music takes on a unique air of mystery and spiritual melancholy, almost as if one of the French viol masters of the late seventeenth century had somehow lived long enough to witness and react to Bach's maturity. An offbeat project even by the standards of the Alpha label, this should appeal greatly to any fan of the long tradition, running from Mozart to Wendy Carlos and beyond, of breaking Bach down and making something new of his music.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
3:35
Sonata for viola da gamba & keyboard No. 1 in G major, BWV 1027
2
3:33
3
3:26
4
1:49
5
2:57
6
3:55
7
2:40
Sonata for viola da gamba & keyboard No. 2 in D major, BWV 1028
8
1:42
9
3:39
10
4:15
11
3:49
12
4:40
13
2:19
Sonata for viola da gamba & keyboard No. 3 in G minor, BWV 1029
14
4:58
15
4:23
16
3:27
17
3:08
blue highlight denotes track pick