Mstation Classical Reviews

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Sun, 29 Jan 2006

Bach, trio-sonatas

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Triosonatas BWV525 -530
Trio Lezard
Jan Creutz - Clarinet; Stephane Egeling - Cors Anglais; Stefan Hoffmann - Bassoon
rec May 2004, Michaelskirche, Reichelsheim, Germany. Super Audio CD

The Bach Organ trio-sonatas have been a happy hunting ground for chamber music groups for decades. They have been rearranged for just about every conceivable combination of baroque forces, from recorder and obligato harpsichord to flute, violin and theorbo continuo and then into some more bizarre areas - koto ensembles and guitar trios. Trio Lezard go rather against the grain of baroque habit by arranging the trios for wind trio employing resolutely modern instruments, in the case of the Cors Anglais, an instrument which had not even been invented when Bach was working. However, they also keep pretty much to the sort of textures and timbres that Bach envisaged on the organ. Essentially, the upper voice (here played on the clarinet) is slightly higher in tessitura than the middle voice (here the cors anglais) while the bass part was originally intended for the pedals and therefore is rather simpler in melodic structure than the upper parts. Looked at in theory like this the timbre of such a group should sound too much like a modern wind trio - think Jean Francaix for example - but in practice this isn't the case. Although employing modern instruments the Trio Lezard have not ignored the studies of their baroque contemporaries and play with sprightly tempi and plenty of attention to the small groupings of notes, not just to the longer phrase structures. In particular the bassoon playing of Stefan Hoffmann seeks to replicate the lightness of German 18th century organ pedal technique, played with toes only and therefore resulting in a certain detachment of the notes in a bass line. This gives to the music something of the dance-like aspect that is always a feature of even the most serious baroque music and the wind timbres have more than a passing resonance with the reed timbres of a baroque organ.

These are very enjoyable performances and the recording is first-rate, the generous, but not over-indulgent acoustic of the Michaelskirche in Reichelsheim providing a setting of appropriate bloom, well caught by the engineers. The more worrying aspect is that this Super Audio CD hybrid, advertised on the cover as "plays on any CD player" worked perfectly well in this reviewers Denon main system CD player, but would not register when played in the computer, and came up on the DVD player as "no disc". Given that SACD technology is supposedly the latest thing, and a format for which we are all supposed to be abandoning our old CD players to re-purchase with the latest equipment, this writer doesn't think that's good enough. More and more the SACD format is looking like a last-ditch attempt to stave off the ever increasing market share going to various downloadable formats and looks more like some of the attempts to protect the LP in the early 1980's - remember the short lived "Long-playing 45rpm"? The format may work well in the SACD machinery, but a basic CD format still plays in the computer - not the best way to listen to a disc admittedly, but important for many people who like a CD in the office while they are working. A format that claims to play on "any CD player" but actually doesn't is not going to endear itself to the market. These fine performances, in imaginative interpretations, really deserve better than that. (c) Peter Wells 2005

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