Chiara Banchini / Jörg-Andreas Bötticher

Bach: Sonates pour Clavecin Obligé et Violon

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The musicians who made historically informed performance the standard for Baroque music in the 1970s and 1980s, once Young Turks, later found themselves eclipsed by still more daring performers (or simply those who benefited from later stages of research). One of the exceptions is Swiss Baroque violinist Chiara Banchini, who inspired many other violinists with her way of teasing the meatier sound of the Baroque instrument into expressive little flourishes. She has chosen several underrated harpsichordists as accompanists over the years, and here, with veteran Jörg-Andreas Bötticher, she finds one capable of keeping up with her investigations of the remarkably complex structures of the music at hand. Bach's sonatas for violin and harpsichord, here properly termed sonatas for obbligato harpsichord and violin. Bach seems to take a perverse delight in confounding the expectations of those who expect a traditional Italianate violin sonata with the harpsichord moving along in a regular figured bass, although there are passages that resemble one. There are also lengthy solos for the harpsichord, polyphonic inventions where the two instruments are equal, trio-sonata-like configurations, and other combinations, all knit together in a dense musical flow where the shifts in texture seem absolutely natural. This modest medium, in the hands of Banchini and Bötticher, becomes one of the most spectacular demonstrations of Bach's ability to exhaustively exploit the resources inherent in musical materials. The only complaint here is the sound from Switzerland's L'heure bleue theater, which is too live; the playing of Banchini and Bötticher is so muscular and brilliant that it really needs no help from the acoustics, which seem a bit harsh.

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