Almost all of the works published during Bach's lifetime have been preserved, and the majority of his religious compositions survive in manuscript form. It is the instrumental work – both chamber and orchestral music – that has suffered greater damage and loss. This can partly be explained by the comparatively little trouble taken with this music soon after Bach's death in 1750: his son Carl Philipp Emanuel reorganised the surviving autograph manuscripts, and bundled the instrumental works together in the a category containing a quantity of other instrumental pieces, of various types, and for various instruments. The fact that reestablishment of the original musical text has mostly had to rely on secondary sources (often copies made by Bach's pupils) inevitably brings the authenticity of the works into question. Without using the term »plagiarism« – the concept of »author's rights« was entirely foreign at that time, and the practice of reusing other composers' musical material without mention of its provenance common during the Baroque. The relatively recent »rediscovery« of Vivaldi showed that Bach transcribed a number of the Italian's works, turning them into concertos for harpsichord or organ. Well-founded inquiry has led some musicologists to question authorship even of the celebrated Toccata and Fugue in D minor... Beyond the problem of the autograph manuscripts, there is another aspect of the German master's chamber music that complicates our understanding of his original intentions: the numerous cases of the same work appearing in several different versions, the result of the frequent reuse of material and its adaptation to varying circumstances throughout Bach's career. In this case, the first of the three sonatas for viola da gamba and obbligato harpsichord also exists in a version for traverso, violin and continuo (BWV 1039); the second also appears for violin and continuo (the manuscript is kept in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek, Mus MS Bach P 532); and the third sonata could have served as a draft for the third Brandenburg concerto. The trio sonata BWV 1038 for flute, violin and continuo shares its bass-line with the sonatas for violin BWV 1021 and 1022, and the sinfonia from the cantata BWV 76 for oboe d'amore, viola da gamba and continuo would be adapted some ten years later, becoming the first movement of the fourth organ sonata BWV 528. The musicological problems of attribution and authenticity – without disputing the quality of the composition – paradoxically allows much room for manoeuvre when interpreting Bach's chamber music. Musicians in the 21st century have the opportunity to attempt a reconstruction of the original versions of certain pieces of which only copies or arrangements have survived. Moreover, they can exercise a certain freedom, and use their own judgment when arriving at an instrumentation. This is the notion that the members of L'Armonia Sonora have endeavoured to convey in this recording: the instrumentation of virtually every piece has been reconsidered, with the aim of achieving a unity of approach, but without changing any of Bach's musical text, or claiming that theirs is necessarily the best choice.
MIENEKE VAN DER VELDEN studied with Wieland Kuijken in The Hague and completed her studies in 1988 with the Performer's Diploma. She is one of Northern Europe's most sought-after gambists, and, in conjunction with a wide-ranging career in chamber music, appears regularly as a soloist with various well-known orchestras including the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra (Ton Koopman), Concerto Vocale (René Jacobs), Collegium Vocale (Philippe Herreweghe), Netherlands Bach Society, and Cantus Cölln (Konrad Junghänel). In her solo recitals she collaborates with Glen Wilson (harpsichord) and Fred Jacobs (theorbo). She has been engaged by the Dutch Early Music Network, Het Grachtenfestival, the Bach Festival, the Utrecht Early Music Festival and the Festival of Flanders as well as by many other concert organisations throughout Europe. Her repertoire extends from French solo repertoire (Marais, Forqueray, Couperin), solo arias from the St. Matthew and St. John's Passions, and other cantatas by J. S. Bach, viola da gamba sonatas and violoncello solo suites by J. S. Bach, and 17th-century English repertoire including lyra-viol music, to contemporary pieces by Robert Heppener and others.
L'ARMONIA SONORA was founded by Mieneke van der Velden several years ago in order to perform cantatas with a variety of vocal soloists. The ensemble consists entirely of musicians recognised within the early music world both in the Netherlands and internationally, and who teach at various Dutch and international conservatoria. The make-up of the ensemble often answers the performance needs of a particular cantata – or even a specific aria – and the programming flexibility thus offered allows for some very varied concerts. In this way, the ensemble can consist of a continuo group only, or be extended by the addition of strings and winds. L'Armonia Sonora works with many well-known soloists, such as bass Peter Kooij, counter-tenor Derek-Lee Ragin and counter-tenor Robin Blaze. In 2006 the ensemble recorded its debut-CD De profundis clamavi with Peter Kooij, receiving an overwhelmingly positive critical reception (5 Diapasons, BBC Music Choice).
François Fernandez, Violin
Ricardo Rodriguez Miranda, Viola da gamba
Leo van Doeselaar, Organ
Siebe Henstra, Harpsichord