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BACH Sonatas for viola and harpsichord BWV1027-1029; Aria ‘Ergieße dich reichlich, du göttliche Quelle’ BWV5

Antoine Tamestit (viola)

Masato Suzuki (harpsichord)


Well-rounded recital taps a divine fountain of music

For this traversal of Johann Sebastian Bach’s viola da gamba music, Antoine Tamestit has gut-strung the ‘Mahler’ Stradivari (see July 2019) and plays it with a bespoke copy of a historic bow. With the instrument tuned at a lower pitch that audibly agrees with it, Tamestit almost uncannily evokes the sound world of the viola da gamba through his thoughtful fingering choices and sophisticated bowing. Although the music, with very few exceptions, fits exactly the viola’s register, Tamestit has introduced some changes of octave that facilitate following Bach’s three-part writing, all the more so since the unobtrusively excellent balance of the recording has the viola comfortably nestled within the harpsichord’s sound.

Tamestit has an ideal partner in Masato Suzuki, who is just as comfortable launching a brisk fugato as he is accompanying passages such as the haunting B minor slow movement from BWV1028. Both players are highly sensitive to the affekt expressed by the music at any given moment. The way Tamestit varies the timbre of a sustained note in reaction to the changing harmonies around it, or the tiny luftpause he introduces as the buoyant finale of BWV1028 turns towards the minor mode, are the work of a master colourist. The aria from Bach’s Cantata BWV5 – the singer’s part has been worked into the harpsichord – is one of his few original viola works.

Its flowing semiquavers, depicting the ‘divine fountain’ mentioned in the text, are interpreted by Tamestit with a nicely springing stroke in a most attractive encore to a wellrounded recital.


BRAHMS Trio in E flat major op.40 BRUCH Eight pieces op.83 SCHUBERT Nocturne in E flat major D897

Natalia Lomeiko (violin)

Yuri Zhislin (viola) Ivan Martin (piano)


Re-scorings of wind to strings hit the mark in this trio of trios

While Natalia Lomeiko, Yuri Zhislin and Ivan Martin may not be the first to record Brahms’s early-maturity Trio for horn, violin and piano, it would be hard to top these readings for the extent to which their colourings honour the original instrumentation. It’s not simply that the viola is a fairly natural substitute for the waldhorn in the first place. It’s also that these three musicians’ tones are gorgeously dark and softly cloaked, with the whole imbued with wonderfully tender nostalgia. Indeed, this is immensely satisfying Brahms all over: comfortable-feeling tempos, metrical limbo-land moments floating along with ease, long phrases expertly grown, and a well-nigh perfect balancing of brightly toned grandeur, soft bubbling and dusky intimacy.

The violin perhaps isn’t quite as natural a substitute for the clarinet, which is what’s then required as the trio turns to Bruch’s Eight Pieces for viola, clarinet and piano, an equally nostalgic set written at the start of the 20th century when Bruch was 70 and very much sounding from a bygone Brahmsian era. However, as Joanna Wyld’s sleeve notes point out, the switch is fitting with Bruch’s strong relationship with the violin; and certainly the end result indisputably works, helped by Lomeiko’s softening position work, and tempo choices on the leisurely end of the scale (especially the Nachtgesang).

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About The Strad

We mark 100 years of Elgar’s Cello Concerto and examine Sgarabotto’s violins. Plus interviews Boris Kuschnir, Daniel Müller-Schott and Richard Tognetti, and our annual Cremona supplement.