J.S. Bach – Sonatas for Viola and Piano BWV 1027-1029/Chorale preludes  (PS3 SACD rip) SACD ISO Image = 2.86 GB | Scans PDF (800 dpi): 15 MB Classical | Label: MDG | Catalog Number: MDG 903 1660-6 | DST 1bit-2822,4kHz 2.0, 5.1
Though the cello and especially the violin were the beneficiaries of numerous solo works by the pen of J.S. Bach, the instrument we know today simply as the viola (but in Bach’s time would have been the viola da braccio) was not fortunate enough to receive original, solo compositions. Instead, violists were bestowed with the lead role in the great Sixth Brandenburg Concerto. This MDG album headlines the Bach sonatas for viola and piano, this is a bit misleading. Rather, these are the three sonatas for viola da gamba (a substantially different instrument with six strings and frets) and harpsichord. Along with the three sonatas, violist Hariolf Schlichtig and pianist Yumi Sekiya transcriptions of four chorale preludes to their program. The only downside to their chosen instrumentation is one of projection. Schlichtig does not have an especially big, penetrating sound, and up against a concert grand, his voice is sometimes subdued more than desirable. Apart from this, their playing is enjoyable. Schlichtig’s tone is warm and nicely rounded; he plays with spot-on intonation, clear articulation, and brings a welcome straightforward interpretation to his listeners. Sekiya’s touch is gentle and elegant, and always right in step with Schlichtig’s pacing. While some purists may not be in favor of the instrumentation, the quality, and integrity in their performance is undeniable. Mike D. Brownell.
On we go to the 43rd release in this, probably the best series of Bach’s cantatas going, at least in Super Audio. (I still like Gardiner’s series a lot, though it will not be complete.) But Suzuki, far more than chief competitor Ton Koopman, has given us a set for the ages, not only performed with consummate style, historical considerations, and musical substance, but with a feeling for these seminal religious works that transcends the merely mechanical presentation that we so often—too often—hear.