www.musicweb-international.com – Marc Rochester, 7/2016
CD: Baroque Passion - with Bernward Lohr
"These are endearing, unpretentious and direct performances which reveal the passion of the performers through interpretations which make no serious intellectual demands on the listeners.
They are not driven by scholarly understanding nor dutiful observance of accepted conventions on the interpretation of the High German Baroque, and you would have to dig deep and long to find any but the most subtle ornamentation. A focus on lyricism and on drawing the spirit of the music out through judicious use of dynamic shading is high on the list of these two performers’ priorities. The boomy acoustic of this German church adds a fine halo of magnificence to the sound, and the modern instruments have a rich, full-bodied sound from which articulation and action noise is all but absent.
Elisabeth Schwanda’s biography highlights her interest in painting and architecture, and there is something almost visual about her richly self-assured playing. There is plenty of fun to be had in the Telemann sonatas – I particularly like the way she portrays the unusual tempo direction ("Cunando") of the third movement of the E minor Sonata – and she imbues neither the Bach nor the Handel with any real seriousness of intent, preferring to let the joy of the music bubble to the surface naturally. A flash of virtuosity in the "furioso" movement of the Handel seems like a shower of tiny sparks rather than a major pyrotechnic display, and there is a wonderful feeling of openness about it all.
Her playing is, needless to say, note-perfect and technically proficient, but beyond that it makes total sense of every note. She clearly relishes the legato lines, and even the fugal textures have a sense of lyricism which makes a most welcome change from the over-articulated energy we are so used to hearing in this repertory.
Schwanda’s harpsichordist partner complements perfectly her open and warm-hearted approach, while in the two solo works which break up the programme, Bernward Lohr shows that he, too, is a player with a real passion for communicating this music in the most direct way. The first of the solos is a glittering Praeludium from Goldberg’s own set of 24 keyboard pieces in all major and minor keys, inspired by the famous examples of his teacher, J. S. Bach. In this, Lohr shows real panache in a flowing virtuoso performance and revels in the occasional dramatic gesture and pregnant pause. A jolly Sonata by Hasse is a more substantial work, but it is brought vividly to life by Lohr’s deft fluency and high good humour. This is a genuinely happy disc."