Bach Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord


PHOTO COURTESY HUDSON CHAMBER MUSIC

Hank Knox

The 35th season of the Hudson Chamber Music Series concludes March 25 with a very special concert devoted to the complete cycle of J.S. Bach's sonatas for violin and harpsichord. The concert will take place at 4 p.m. in St. James’ Church Hall (642 Main Road in Hudson). The two soloists will be Mark Fewer on violin and Hank Knox on harpsichord, both of whom are internationally renowned as soloists and chamber musicians.

Mark Fewer has performed around the world to great acclaim. His repertoire ranges from the early Baroque to avant-garde jazz. He has made eight recordings since 2010. In 2012 he won a Juno Award for best contemporary jazz album, performing a jazz violin concerto written for him by Phil Dwyer. In the same year, his recording of the chamber works of Serge Arcuri garnered a Prix Opus, and he made his conducting debut with I Musici de Montréal performing his own arrangements of standards by Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. A former member of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Mark has taught at Stanford and McGill.

Hank Knox is a founding member of Montreal's Arion Baroque Orchestra, with whom he has toured on four continents. He also performs, records, and tours with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Les Violons du Roy, le Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal, and l'Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. His numerous recordings as soloist and chamber musician include separate collections of Frescobaldi keyboard works for the Atma Classique and early-music.com labels. He teaches harpsichord and continuo in the Early Music programme at McGill, where he also conducts the McGill Baroque Orchestra and directs a series of Baroque operas for Opera McGill.

PHOTO COURTESY HUDSON CHAMBER MUSIC

Mark Fewer

Last September, the duo released a recording of the Bach violin and harpsichord sonatas on the Leaf Music label. Mark and Hank discuss their recording sessions and play excerpts from the sonatas on a YouTube video available at the following address: www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=30&v=4ESJ18yhKJo. Copies of the recording should be available for purchase at the concert. Several of their performances of other works can also be found online.

The Bach sonatas are pillars of the classical music repertoire. They have been recorded by many of the greats: Menuhin, Suk, Grumiaux, Szeryng, Perlman, Argerich, Gould, Koopman, Pinnock, and so on. Bach wrote these works in trio sonata form: there are separate parts for the violin and the harpsichord. The harpsichordist does double duty by also improvising a bass line. Sonatas in which the keyboard participated as an equal partner with the other solo instrument were a radical innovation at the time.

Bach explores an astonishing range of musical mood in these sonatas, as well as a very wide range of musical forms, including elaborate fugues and independent melodic lines in the two upper voices. In form and substance they far transcended the musical practices of the time. In their YouTube video, both Mark and Hank remark that they would often finish performing a movement and would tell each other that it was the most beautiful piece of music they had ever played together — until the next movement.

Individual tickets will be available at the door at a cost of $25 for adults and $20 for seniors.

More information, including more detailed bios of the musicians and links to their personal web sites can be found on the group’s web site at www.hudsonchambermusic.ca/. As always, the Hudson Chamber Music Series offers world-class chamber music without the commute to the city and without big-city prices.

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