The Strad issue
An attractive disc of 18th-century gamba sonatas
Rebeka Rusó (viola da gamba) Sebastian Wienand (fortepiano)
Perfectly matched in their instinctive musicianship and stylistic sensibility, Rebeka Rusó and Sebastian Wienand can hardly be faulted in these performances, full of remarkable vision and authority. Although their use of a fortepiano might raise some eyebrows, this instrument’s expressive subtleties bring these works fully to life and its use is thoroughly justified by a significant iconographical source, Adolph Menzel’s painting The Flute Concert at Sanssouci (1852).
Rusó and Wienand coax a lyrical flexibility from their instruments in Emanuel Bach’s somewhat routine Sonata in C major. But they eagerly exploit the greater imagination of his D major Sonata, offering a graceful and serious yet never ponderous reading of the opening Adagio, complete with an inventive closing gamba cadenza. Rusó also revels in the technical athleticism of the central Allegro and the expressive lyricism of the final Arioso. Their account of the G minor Sonata is particularly pleasing, conveying the brilliance and quirkiness of its outer movements as well as the soulfulness of its central Larghetto.
They also capture the elegance and lyricism of Abel’s E minor Sonata, and Rusó deftly dispatches this composer’s three unaccompanied pieces, introducing a colourful variety of tender and finely nuanced sonorities from her Jacob Stainer gamba. The recording is exemplary.