The pure polyphonic quality of J.S. Bach’s Inventions and Sinfonias cannot be overstated – simple yet bursting with ideas, they offer an agile introduction to late-baroque musical forms and imitative writing in general, while retaining a cantabile feel. These exquisite miniatures, transcendent of the didactic purpose to which they were relegated for too long, provide an orderly and at once concise and comprehensive survey of Bach’s soundscape. The purity and density of their musical substance, distilled in a sort of abstract and universal language, has naturally encouraged numerous arrangements from the 19th century onwards for vast array of other instruments.
Here we have the two-part Inventions arranged for two violins by the performers, Yulia Berinskaya and Valentina Danelon, where Bach’s aim of encouraging ‘a cantabile style of playing’ through the independence of the parts is admirably achieved in the natural expressiveness of the two stringed instruments. The three-part Sinfonias are given in the existing 19th-century arrangement for two violins and viola by Ferdinand David (1810–73), not only one of the leading violinists of his era but also a musician with very close links to Felix Mendelssohn, a composer who spearheaded a revival of interest in Bach’s music.
The pairing of these arrangements of Bach with a similarly-scored string trio by Taneyev is an apt one on a deeper level, too. The Russian composer was affectionately known by his composition teacher, Tchaikovsky, as the ‘Russian Bach’ on account of his deep knowledge and expert application of the art of counterpoint. Taneyev drew on his deep mathematical knowledge to seek out all possible combinations in his compositions, exploring and analysing areas of polyphony like none other in his day. His Trio for two violins and viola Op.21 (1907) offers an original pairing of classical forms and language with his beloved baroque counterpoint, a combination enhanced in places by harmonic solutions and atmospheres typical of late 19th-century Europe.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) wrote his 2-part Inventions and 3-part Sinfonias for a keyboard instrument, composed for his family’s musical education, initially to improve the technique of his eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann.
This purity and density of the music, distilled in an abstract and universal language, invited numerous arrangements from the nineteenth century onwards, allowing the Inventions and Sinfonias to be performed in many different settings. Bach himself, a fervent reuser and arranger of both his own and other people’s compositions (consider for example his reworking of music by Vivaldi, Marcello and Albinoni) would probably have had no objections to these numerous ‘translations’ of his music.
This recording presents an unusual version of the two-part Inventions for two violins arranged by the performers Yulia Berinskaya and Valentina Danelon themselves, where Bach’s aim to pursue ‘a cantabile style of playing’ through the independence of the parts is achieved admirably in the natural expressiveness of the two stringed instruments. The three-part Sinfonias were arranged for two violins and viola by Ferdinand David (1810–73). He was not only one of the leading violinists of his era but also, most importantly, had very close links to Felix Mendelssohn, and so was heavily involved in the early nineteenth-century ‘Bach renaissance’, inspiring him to arrange various Bach works.
As well as the works chosen for this recording being scored for the same instruments, the pairing of Bach and Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev (1856–1915) is a logical one: Taneyev was affectionately known by Tchaikovsky as the ‘Russian Bach’ due to his deep knowledge and expert application of the art of counterpoint. This recording presents his beautiful String Trio for 2 violins and viola Op. 21.
Played with genuine affection and warmth by Yulia Berinskaya, Valentina Danelon and Anna Serova, all three pursuing a thriving international career.
Recorded October 2021 in Pordenone, Italy.
Bilingual booklet in English and Italian contains liner notes by musicologist Umberto Berti, along with biographies of the three artists.