Zoltán Gyöngyössy, László Hadady, György Lakatos, Borbála Dobozy J.S. Bach: Trio Sonatas

BMCCD049 2001

In the trio sonatas of Bach, regardless of the apparatus or number of performers (4, 2 or 1) they were intended for, the noble beauty of the melodic structure, the masterly treatment of the counterpoint, the complementing interplay of the rhythm of the parts and the wealth of harmony all merge to form a perfect unity and as such become the apotheosis of compositions for three parts.

Zoltán Farkas


Zoltán Gyöngyössy - flute (Miyazawa)
László Hadady - oboe (F. Lorée)
György Lakatos - bassoon (Heckel No. 8492)
Borbála Dobozy - harpsichord (Dows)

About the album

Recorded at the Phoenix Studio, Hungary
Recording producer: Ibolya Tóth
Balance engineer: János Bohus
Digital editing: Veronika Vincze, Mária Falvay

Cover and portrait photos: Dániel Németh
Design: Meral Yasar
Produced by László Gőz

Special thanks are due to Zoltán Dániel whose idea of this recording was and who sponsored its realization.

The recording was sponsored by F. Lorée, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the National Cultural Fund of Hungary

3500 HUF 11 EUR

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J.S. Bach: Sonata in E flat major, BWV 525

01 Allegro moderato 3:02
02 Adagio 3:47
03 Allegro 3:48
20 Adagio 3:47

J.S. Bach: Sonata in G major, BWV 1038

04 Largo 3:34
05 Vivace 0:58
06 Adagio 2:05
07 Presto 1:28

J.S. Bach: Sonata in C major, BWV 1037

08 Adagio 3:15
09 Alla breve 3:08
10 Largo 1:47
11 Gigue 3:26

J.S. Bach: Sonata in G major, BWV 1039

12 Adagio 3:29
13 Allegro ma non tanto 3:32
14 Adagio e piano 2:29
15 Allegro moderato 2:58

J.S. Bach: Sonata in C minor (from the Musical Offering), BWV 1079

16 Largo 4:59
17 Allegro 5:57
18 Andante 2:55
19 Allegro 3:13
Total time 63:37

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"Music is, essentially, joy. And anything that human nature demands is inevitable, thus man cannot be without joy, and when he is full of joy, he must express it through notes…"

Xun Zi

The Trio Sonatas of J. S. Bach

Between 1650-1750, the trio sonata, composed for two melodic instruments and basso continuo, was the most important genre in chamber music, enjoying the same standing as the string quartet did from the end of the 18th century. Like the other important musical forms of the era, the trio sonata was born in Italy and spread thence to England, France and Germany. Bach was well-acquainted with the masters who had played key roles in the early history of the trio sonata, since he adapted a few movements from the sonatas da chiesa (BWV 574, 579) of Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-90) and Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) for the organ.

There is still some uncertainty concerning a large number of the chamber pieces of Bach. Considering the inner proportions of his oeuvre, relatively few trio sonatas have survived. We have good reason to suspect that the proportion of lost trio sonatas is greater than that of his cantatas. There are Bach scholars who surmise that behind every piece written by Bach for a solo instrument and the compulsory harpsichord -carrying the composed right-hand part - lies an earlier trio sonata as the original version. An evident cause of the possible loss could be that after the demise of Bach, his musical estate was distributed among his sons, the vocal pieces bequeathed to the older brothers and the chamber music to the younger ones, Johann Christoph Friedrich and Johann Christian, who clearly did not prize their paternal heritage as highly as the others, since the scores inherited by them have almost completely disappeared.
There are still a number of unanswered questions concerning the known chamber pieces of Bach as well. For instance, very little is known about the exact dates of composition. According to Christoph Wolff, the oft-repeated assertion that most of Bach's chamber music was composed during his years of service at Köthen (1717-23) should be reconsidered. It is more likely that Bach wrote chamber music all through his life, while residing at the Court of Weimar (in 1703 and between 1708 and 1717) and also at Leipzig and not only in the period between 1729 and 1741, when he was musical head of the Collegium Musicum there. Of the barely forty pieces he wrote for instrumental ensemble, sixteen have certainly or to all probability survived in two or three different versions, and sometimes it is far from clear which of these is the original, pre-dating the others. Dating the pieces thereby becomes difficult or impossible.

The question of authenticity arises with good reason in relation to certain compositions forming part of the fragmented chamber music repertory that has survived, and of a number of these it has been proved beyond doubt that Bach was not their author.
All these uncertainties, however, do not alter the fact that the trio sonata became an important ground for Bach's innovative efforts. Taking this conventional form as his starting-point, he reformed the solo sonata accompanied by harpsichord by elevating the harpsichord out of its role as continuo and investing it with a right-hand part of its own, thus promoting it to the rank of the melodic instruments (violin, flute or viola da gamba). At this stage of progress, having three parts made it unnecessary for the basso continuo to fill the musical texture with harmonies. The independence of the three parts reaches perfection in those trio sonatas which Bach wrote for the two manual keyboards and the pedalboard of the organ. At the same time, it is no accident that towards the end of his life, in one of his great summarizing pieces, Musical Offering, Bach returned to the traditional casting of the trio sonata - flute, violin and basso continuo - while working upon the royal theme in Sonata Sopr' Il Soggetto Reale. This composition, more intricate, complex and masterly than any other, represents the apex of the history of the trio sonata.

In the trio sonatas of Bach, regardless of the apparatus or number of performers (4, 2 or 1) they were intended for, the noble beauty of the melodic structure, the masterly treatment of the counterpoint, the complementing interplay of the rhythm of the parts and the wealth of harmony all merge to form a perfect unity and as such become the apotheosis of compositions for three parts.

Trio Sonata in E flat major (BWV 525)

Bach noted down the six trio sonatas for organ as a unified collection around 1730 (which does not preclude the possibility that some of the pieces were written earlier). This series is in fact the only coherent opus among his 'free' organ pieces, i.e., pieces not bound to a choral melody. Forkel reports that Bach composed these sonatas as practice pieces for his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, who became a virtuoso organist under his father's tuition. The performer of these pieces faces significant technical difficulties as both hands and both feet are required to move independently. It is no accident that the trio sonatas in question form an integral part of an organist's studies to this day. All the compositions follow the triad (fast-slow-fast) movement pattern of the Italian concerto (or, to use the terminology of Johann Adolf Scheibe, a contemporary of Bach's, fall into the category of "Sonaten auf Concertant"). On the other hand, the structures prevalent in the majority of movements, developed out of binary, repeated forms, bear no resemblance to the Italian concerto form, but follow the most modern form of that age instead. The Sonata in E flat major, the first piece of the series, is an excellent example of the lively interplay of the two concerted treble parts and the three-part structure without harmonic filling in. The first movement is enlivened by the contrast between the even sixteenths and the resolved triads. The Adagio in C minor with its 12/8 metre evokes the rocking beat of the Siciliano, evoking a most expressive melodic world reminiscent of the arias of Bach's cantatas.

The closing movement, Allegro, is a masterly synthesis of rigorous musical logic, expert knowledge of counterpoint, cheering ingenuity and rhythmic momentum. On this recording, true to the original structure and organ sound, the piece is played by three wind instruments unaccompanied by a harpsichord.

Trio Sonata in G major (BWV 1038)

The Trio Sonata in G major (BWV 1038) is closely related to the Violin Sonata in G major (BWV 1021) and the Violin Sonata in F major (BWV 1022), its bass part being near-identical, except for minor variations, to that of the Violin Sonata in G major, while its two melodic parts completely differ from the material for the violin. (The Violin Sonata in F major, on the other hand, is a transcription of the trio sonata in which one of the two melodic parts is entrusted to the right hand of the keyboard player, in accordance with the popular genre of the so-called "accompanied sonata".) Most Bach scholars consider the Violin Sonata in G major the original, authentic composition of Bach, while in their opinion the trio sonata was written by a student or disciple, to whom Bach himself set the task of composing two independent parts for the given bass. Some scholars believe that this student was Bach's most talented son, Carl Philipp Emanuel. Still others consider the trio sonata a much better composition than the violin sonata, and suppose the relation between model and composition exercise the other way round. The mystery surrounding these works is further deepened by the fact that the manuscript of the trio sonata is written in Bach's own hand, while the violin sonata is preserved in the handwriting of the composer's second wife, Anna Magdalena - whose handwriting, incidentally, is eerily similar to the composer's own. (The testimony of handwriting however cannot be considered conclusive: Bach, the proud father, may well have written down the trio sonata composed by his son, just as Anna Magdalena, who married Johann Sebastian in 1721 while he was living in Köthen, may have copied a violin sonata irrespective of whether it was composed by her husband or step-son.) The trio sonata version is more up-to-date stylistically and unquestionably better than the violin sonata as regards certain motifs - such as the magnificent fugue of the complete final movement; the abbreviated version that appears in the violin sonata pales in comparison. At the same time, the trio sonata has a great many unusual features not at all typical of Bach. First and foremost, the structure of the opening Largo, where Bach's usual repeat mark does not appear, the repetition of the two form sections is accomplished through variation. In the course of repetition the bass line is simplified, while the melodic parts are ornamented with variations of dotted rhythms. Another irregularity is that the two parts are of equal length, as Bach generally used augmentation in the second part. The second movement (Vivace) gives the impression of an invention built on a single theme, and is, according to several critics, "annoyingly" short. The Adagio - with the sentimental song of the melodic parts moved in similar motion - belongs to the "gallant" or "Empfindsamkeit" style rather than to the Baroque, but this fact does not preclude Bach's authorship, as he used the same style in some of the slow movements of his undoubtedly authentic organ trio sonatas. There is no room for doubt that the beautiful three-part Presto fugue could only have been written by the great Bach himself: the independent, eloquent melodic line of the individual parts, their complementary interplay, the freshness of rhythmic invention make this piece the magnificent finale of Bach's chamber music.

Trio Sonata in C major (BWV 1037)

As early as 1953, Alfred Dürr advanced a number of convincing arguments to the effect that the Sonata in C major was in fact composed by Johann Gottlieb Goldberg and not Johann Sebastian Bach. This Goldberg, who was born in 1727 and died in 1756, is the exceptionally talented prodigy made immortal by Bach's Goldberg Variations, the harpsichord player who made the nights of the insomniac Count Keyserling tolerable by performing the Goldberg Variations, according to the anecdote attributed to Forkel. It is, however, a fact that of all the historical sources, only three, relatively late, 19th century copies indicate Bach as the composer, while Goldberg's name appears on four earlier, mid-18th century copies. Dürr supports his view with a thorough stylistic analysis of the extant works of Goldberg and concludes that this trio sonata could well be a composition of the young musician inspired by the spirit of Bach. Incidentally, Goldberg was a student of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, but Johann Sebastian may also have found time for him, encouraging him among other things to write church cantatas for example. The undoubtedly excellent qualities of the Trio Sonata in C major may thus be explained by the assumption that Bach corrected and perfected the composition of his pupil. On the basis of these considerations, Dürr deems it advisable to introduce the specification of "school of Bach", on the model of schools of painting. Others, unable to accept this argumentation, continue to believe Bach to be the author of this trio sonata. The opening Adagio movement's sustained tune flows into a syncopated motif which will gain an extremely important role in the movement. A masterly, three-theme fugue follows in second place in this composition modelled on the structure of the four-movement church sonata, the sonata da chiesa. The third movement, Largo, is likewise rigorously structured: the two melodic parts keep in exact canon above the independent bass throughout. The structural rigour, however, does not lessen the expressive power of the melody, which is further enhanced by ascending sixth intervals that play the role of exclamatio (exclamation) in Baroque rhetorics. The composition closes with the unexpected appearance of a dance movement, a sweeping Gigue. One source of the movement's peculiar humour is that the emphatic first beat is "left empty": only the bass can be heard, as the dance tune itself does not enter until later.

Trio Sonata in G-major (BWV 1039)

This composition was originally written for two flutes and basso continuo, but Bach later transcribed it for viola da gamba with obligato harpsichord accompaniment, where one of the parts originally played by a flute is taken over by the right hand of the harpsichord player. One may rightly suppose that it was the enchanting delicacy of the melody of the opening movement that made Bach rewrite it for the slender and silver-toned viola da gamba. The pastoral, sunny mood of the Adagio (to be played not-too-slow) darkens by degrees and becomes more and more intense in the increasingly sophisticated harmonic process. In the second movement (Allegro ma non tanto), Bach uses his popular style, favoured in his secular cantatas as well: the character of the stamping folk dance is hidden in the background of the main theme. The Adagio e piano (Andante in the version for viola da gamba) is the most polished, sensitive, most unmistakably "empfindsamer" movement in all of Bach's trio sonatas. Above a slowly proceeding, evenly repeated bass, the arpeggiated chords of the two melodic instruments wander restlessly from key to key without ever settling - almost as if we were listening to an expressive recitativo accompagnato of one of Bach's Passions. The tensions of this slow movement ending on an imperfect cadence are resolved by the harmonic unanimity of the Allegro molto closing movement, its clearly phrased dance-like rhythm.

Trio Sonata in c-minor (from the Musical Offering - BWV 1079)

One of the best known - and unquestionably authentic - episodes of Bach's biography is the visit he paid to the court of Frederic the Great, king of Prussia, which resulted in the monumental series Musical Offering, composed round the theme provided by the Monarch. Some attributed it to the conservative musical taste of the Court that, in addition to the two ricercars and ten canons, Bach elaborated the royal theme in the traditional form of the trio sonata, with basso continuo as well, but knowing Bach's encyclopaedic aspirations and his ambition to render homage to antique techniques of composition by creating perfect masterpieces, it is more likely that it was his own inner need rather than the desire to adapt to the taste of the Court that motivated him to compose the trio sonata. (Having said that, the third movement of the Sonata does show characteristics that mirror the Berlin fashion of the times.)

In the first movement of the Sonata Sopr' Il Soggetto Reale a Traversa, Violino e Continuo, the composer does not immediately introduce the royal theme. In its place, there appears a melody extremely rich in emotion, whose opening intervals - an ascending sixth full of pathos and a descending diminished fourth - bring out the most sensitive notes of the key in C-minor. Hence the irresistible effect of the melody (in fact, this melodic turn became one of the most popular themes in the history of music, appearing even in the slow movement of Schumann's 2nd Symphony). The formal proportions of the movement are masterly, the second part being exactly twice as long as the first.

The most important, most monumental movement of the Sonata is the Allegro. Once more Bach first introduces a theme of his own, and later makes it contrapuntal to the royal theme. The melody of Frederic the Great is present throughout the movement as cantus firmus, appearing in its entirety six times all told. Perhaps this is the movement which shows most clearly how Bach surpassed not only all his contemporaries, but his own earlier works in this Trio Sonata. His themes become musical characters in their own right, and the different parts retain their own melodic beauty even in the most intricate contrapuntal context. After the sweeping momentum and unassuagable dramatic tension of the Allegro, Andante is of an entirely different style. The sentimental melodiousness of the harmonic procession of thirds and sixths, also carried by the basso continuo, the texture, woven of small sighing motifs (Seufzer), and the accompanying echo-play conform to the musical taste of the Prussian royal court. The closing movement (Allegro) is the terminus of the "story" of the royal theme; Bach creates his own variation following the melodic framework of the given theme. The basic musical theme of Musical Offering, no longer a quotation-like cantus firmus, but an integral part of the movement, crowns the sonata, and the exaggerative use of the chromatic possibilities inherent in the theme of Frederic the Great invests the closing movement with a very special tension of its own.

Zoltán Farkas
translated by Fruzsina Balkay, Eszter Molnár

Zoltán Gyöngyössy (1958, Komló) graduated cum laude from the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music (1981) where he was a student of Henrik Prõhle, András Pernye, Melinda Kistétényi, István Láng, György Kurtág and Albert Simon. He spent one year at the Carl-Maria von Weber Academy of Music in Dresden where his tutors were Johannes Walter and Arndt Schöne, members of the legendary Statskapelle, and then continued his education as scholarship-holder of the IRCAM and the Boulez Institute. His regular co-operation with Pierre-Yves Artaud and Robert Aitken dates from the latter period.
In 1986, he was solo flutist of the Europe Chamber Orchestra led by Claudio Abbado; he contributed to the activity of Budapest Festival Orchestra at the time of its foundation, and toured Vienna, Berlin and Frankfurt as soloist of the Ensemble Modern. He plays on a regular basis with two Hungarian contemporary music ensembles, Componensemble and Intermoduláció. He was granted the Liszt Award. Beside giving concerts at home and abroad, he teaches at the Béla Bartók Vocational Secondary School of Music and at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music.

László Hadady (1956, Békésszentandrás), the pupil of József Kányási at Debrecen, studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music where his chamber music teacher/composer György Kurtág made a lasting impression on him. He received his oboist’s and teacher’s degree in 1979. From 1976 to 1980, he was a member of the Hungarian State Concert Orchestra led by János Ferencsik, and of the Nielsen Brass Quintet founded in 1975 from 1985 on; he was solo oboist of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Paris chamber orchestra of Pierre Boulez from 1980 on. He played regularly with the Ferenc Liszt Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Paris Opera, the Symphony Orchestra of the French Radio and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. He was the soloist of several English, French, German, Argentine and Hungarian orchestras. In 1993, he was accompanied at Elliot Carter’s oboe concerto in London and Paris by the Philharmonia Orchestra, London; in 1995, he gave two concerts in Chicago upon the invitation of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In 1990, he acquired a French State Teacher’s Diploma (C.A.) and he has been professor of chamber music and pedagogy at the Paris Academy of Music since 1995. His major solo recordings are Berio: Chemin IV. (Sony/CBS) and Sequenza VII. (Deutsche Grammophon). He gave more than 2000 concerts in 45 countries the world over. He plays the Stradivari of oboe-players: a Lorée Royal.

György Lakatos (1960, Kalocsa) graduated from the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music in 1987. In 1985, he became first bassoonist of the Hungarian State Opera and also of the Orchestra of the Budapest Philharmonic Society. He was elected Artist of the Year of the Opera in 1987 and won the first prize of the Bassoon Competition of the Hungarian Radio in 1988. From 1993 to 1997 he won the award of Artisjus, the Society of the Hungarian Bureau for the Protection of Authors’ Rights, for his interpretation of contemporary Hungarian compositions four times. He was granted the Liszt Award in 1996 and spent the next year in Paris as winner of the Eötvös Scholarship. His records feature him both as solo and chamber-music player. He gave concerts, held courses or participated at competitions in almost every country of Europe, and also toured in America and Israel.

Borbála Dobozy (Budapest) started her higher-level harpsichord studies at Bratislava as the student of Zuzana Ruzicková and graduated cum laude from the Prague Academy of Music. In subsequent years, she participated at post-graduate courses. She was introduced to the so-called “historic” performance style at the Salzburg Mozarteum by Liselotte Brändle, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Johann Sonnleitner and got her second degree, also with high honours, there. She then studied at the Zurich Academy of Music under Johann Sonnleiter for one year. She was one of the prize-winners of the 1983 international harpsichord competition in Brugge, Belgium.
Her album featuring pieces by Gottlieb Muffat (Componimenti musicali) received the German Music Critics’ Award in Hamburg in 1992. She gave concerts and made recordings in most European countries and in the USA. The Harpsichord Department of the Szeged Faculty of the Ferenc Liszt University of Music was formed under her leadership, and she is a founding member and President of the Board of the Hungarian Bach Society.

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