Steve Smith - The New York Times
According to the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalog, commonly abbreviated as BWV), Johann Sebastian Bach composed more than 1,100 works. For some performers that prodigious output isn’t enough. Fresh arrangements of Bach’s music have been a booming industry for ages, especially among musicians whose instruments or ensembles Bach did not use. And Bach was himself an inveterate tinkerer, with both his own pieces and those of other composers.
So it came as no great surprise when the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, a distinguished Toronto-based period-instrument ensemble, came to Zankel Hall on Friday evening with two unknown works bearing Bach’s name. Each was familiar from a previous incarnation: the Concerto for Three Harpsichords in D minor (BWV 1063) had been reworked for three violins, and the Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor (BWV 1067) had been transposed to A minor, with the solo flute replaced by a violin.
Jeanne Lamon, a violinist and the music director of Tafelmusik, said from the stage that these inventions might actually represent the original forms of the pieces. Most of Bach’s harpsichord concertos, she explained, were composed initially for other instruments, often violin. The D minor concerto, for which no earlier version is known, might have had a similar origin.
That a version for violins is easier to take on tour, as Ms. Lamon pointed out, was evident. But another benefit was variety; here individual solo voices were more easily distinguished than in the harpsichord version. Indeed, the principal allure of the arrangement was in the contrasting sounds and styles of three excellent soloists from the ensemble’s ranks: Julia Wedman, Patricia Ahern and Aisslinn Nosky.
Of the newly engineered Suite for Violin and Orchestra in A minor, Ms. Lamon said that the solo part seemed more idiomatic to the violin; the lower key, more “user-friendly” to the orchestra. Familiar melodies aside, the music had a frisson of added intensity, even melancholy; Ms. Lamon was an exciting soloist, conjuring a whirlwind in the final Badinerie.
Elsewhere Tafelmusik mixed insight, assurance and visceral engagement in works to show stylistic cross-pollination among Baroque composers. A brilliant Orchestral Suite in D minor by the German composer Johann Friedrich Fasch opened with a French-style overture and included a glorious Italianate aria for oboe and bassoon.
The Italian-born French master Lully included in his “Phaëton” a beguiling Chaconne, a form rooted in the Italian ciaccona. And in the buoyant interplay among strings; continuo; and two oboists, John Abberger and Marco Cera, in a Concerto in D minor by Vivaldi, you understood why Bach found common cause with his Italian contemporary.
Recalled for an encore, the players offered a frisky “Tambourins” from Marin Marais’s “Alcyone.”