Speculations on Bach Reconstructed chamber music & choralsSpeculations on J. S. Bach
Reconstructed chamber music & chorals

Michael Form, recorded; Marie Rouquié, violin; Étienne Floutier, viola da gamba; Dirk Börner, harpsichord

Panclassics, 2018

Speculations on Bach: the Programme

Speculations on J. S. Bach is a recording where curiosity for the unfinished works written by the great Baroque composer is equal to the refinement of the performance of this reconstructed music.

It is difficult to imagine that Bach did not write a lot of music for one of the main genres of 18th century. For this reason, it is thought that most of Bach’s chamber compositions – both from the Cöthen and the Weimar period – are lost. It is to this kind of works that the obituary refers when it lists «a quantity of other instrumental things, of every kind and for every kind of instrument».

Among these works, there were the trio sonatas for two instruments and continuo which are the main reason of interest of this recording. They date both from the Weimar and the Cöthen years, but Bach revised some of them while living in Leipzig to use them during the concerts held at Zimmerman’s coffee house. Often we have to rely on later arrangements to reconstruct the works, because many of the autographs are lost.

Next to the trio sonatas, there are some interludes provided by chorale arrangements. However, some of them, Jesu meine Freude and Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten, are not merely transcriptions, but are compositions in their own right.

Michael Form made all the arrangements of the present recording. He also plays the recorder next to Marie Rouquié (violin), Étienne Floutier (viola da gamba) and Dirk Börner (harpsichord).

Speculations on Bach: the Performance

As for the music of this album, it is extremely enjoyable. Even in its reconstructed form, it is clear that this is not the deepest music Bach has ever written; nothing can be further from this chamber music and the transcendental meaning of the Passions or of the Mass in B minor.

Anyway, there is something charming in the blend of lightness and brilliance of these works. Moreover, the four performers of Speculations on Bach play with skill and enthusiasm. Despite their many combinations in these works, the dialogue seems uninterrupted among the various instruments between one composition and the other. All the performers are stylish and gifted. The blend between the graceful and soft sound of the harpsichord, of the velvet of the violin and of the viola da gamba and of the jocose, vivacious sound of the recorder is instinctive and effective. Overall, they present Bach’s reconstructed music in the most delightful way.