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J. S. Bach: 3 Gamba Sonatas
Arvo Pärt: Spiegel im Spiegel

 

F10278   [8595017427824]   released 5/2023

Štěpán Filípek: cello
Sára Medková: piano
play all 3 Gamba Sonatas 51:22
1.
Sonata G Major BWV1027 Adagio 3:29
2.
Sonata G Major BWV1027 Allegro ma non tanto 3:42
3.
Sonata G Major BWV1027 Andante 2:58
4.
Sonata G Major BWV1027 Allegro moderato 3:07
5.
Sonata D Major BWV1028 Adagio 1:54
6.
Sonata D Major BWV1028 Allegro 3:49
7.
Sonata D Major BWV1028 Andante 4:54
8.
Sonata D Major BWV1028 Allegro 4:29
9.
Sonata G Minor BWV1029 Vivace 5:21
10.
Sonata G Minor BWV1029 Adagio 6:14
11.
Sonata G Minor BWV1029 Allegro 3:53
12.
Spiegel im Spiegel 7:24

The sonatas for viola da gamba and continuo by Johann Sebastian Bach date from the composer’s time in Cöthen. Before that, however, Bach had experience various vicissitudes in his life and work. During his time in Mühlhausen and Weimar frictions with church authorities and also with the Duke of Saxe-Weimar finally led to a so-called “dismissal for cause” – Bach had become a victim of a dispute between Duke Wilhelm Ernst and his nephew Ernst August. The uncle, unlike his nephew, a “bon vivant”, was conservatively inclined, and the conflicts between the two were reflected both in terms of the orchestra/chapel and the musicians. Moving to Cöthen was also difficult for Bach, since he entered an environment that was strictly Calvinist, although he was a deeply convinced Lutheran. This probably produced his inclination toward the creation of chamber music and concerted music at that time. It should be added, however, that the Calvinist court at Cöthen was quite tolerant towards Lutherans, and allowed them to worship in the church, which had recently been completed, in 1699. Fortunately, Bach had very good relations with the music-loving Prince Leopold. However, events were soon to have an effect on the composer’s life – in May and June Bach was staying in Carlsbad together with the Prince and his court, only to learn, alas, on his return that he had become a widower. His concern for the children from his first marriage finally led Bach to marry the twenty-year old Anna Magdalena on December 3, 1721. In the years that followed opportunities for musical activities gradually withered, probably due to the long illness of the young princess, who died in 1723, and with the associated changes in Leopold’s priorities. Bach then began to seek out a position as cantor at St. Thomas in Leipzig – older literature on Bach also explained this as an ambition on Bach’s part to fully establish himself in the field of sacred music. The competition for this post, however, was great – the first candidate selected was his famous colleague, Georg Philipp Telemann, and the second, the Darmstadt Kapellmeister, Christoph Graupner. However, neither one accepted the post – Telemann managed to get improved conditions in Hamburg, and Graupner was not released from his service in Darmstadt. Thus, fortune finally smiled on Bach. In addition to the aforementioned post at St. Thomas, he also was granted the title of city music director, and so in Leipzig he was responsible not only for sacred music, but also secular music. He also taught and continued to be active as a performer. In spite of the prestige that this post brought him, he retained the title of court Kapellmeister in Cöthen, and completed a whole list of works for festive occasions there.

The three sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord, BWV 1027-1029, are usually dated to the year 1720, and their dedicatee and performer is thought to have been Christian Ferdinand Abel – a friend of Bach’s, apparently also the recipient of his cello (or partly gamba) suites? The decline of the viola da gamba and its replacement by the violoncello is a thorny question. It also was related to the situations at individual courts, the activities of instrument builders, and their reactions to specific commissions. One of these sonatas was recast for entirely different instrumentation, and he also arranged parts of other sonatas in this way. The cycle is a an example of Bach’s master informed by the study of Vivaldi, and all that which had been achieved by the Italian sonata da chiesa.  

As a bonus track the album includes the famous Spiegel im Spiegel [Mirror in mirror], which the Estonian post-modernist Arvo Pärt composed in 1978. This work was originally for violin and piano, but later the composer created a number of versions for other instruments. Among these the version for cello is the most popular with the public.

Miloš Štědroň



The collaboration between pianist Sara Medková and cellist Štěpán Filípek goes back to the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, when they performed together at several festivals in the Czech Republic and abroad. After a hiatus of several years, they returned to playing together in 2019, and, in addition to frequent concerts, also developed a long-term project in which they studied and recorded the beautiful gamba sonatas by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Sára Medková (b. 1983) is one of the leading young Czech pianists. In addition to being invited to the renowned international Shanghai Spring Music Festival, she made debuts at the Murchinson Performing Center in Dallas, the Wild Beast in Los Angeles, the Music Center in Jerusalem, the Central Conservatory in Peking, the BVVA concert series in Madrid and at the Royal Academy in Ghent. She was the only Czech pianist to give a solo recital at the prestigious PIANODROM festival in Albania. Her successful debut at the New Music Week International Festival in Shanghai was described by critics as "art of the highest quality". She studied composition at JAMU in Brno with Ivo Medek and piano at HAMU in Prague with Peter Toperczer and Ivo Kahánek. She continued her training with a year-long internship at the Carl Maria von Weber Hochschule in Dresden, with Arkadi Zenziper and at master classes by world-renowned pianists (Boris Berman, Andrei Gavrilov, Eliso Virsaladze, Daniel Pollack, Daan Vandewalle, Avo Kouyoumdjian). She is now continuing her doctoral studies at JAMU in Brno under the guidance of Igor Ardašev and Jaroslav Šťastný. he is a laureate of international piano competitions and in 2009 and 2012 received prestigious scholarships from the Czech Music Fund. She has performed on concert stages in 28 countries in Europe, the USA, Asia, and Africa. She is a member of Ensemble Marijan and the ISHA trio, with whom she has recorded the CDs Ancient Stories and Love Stories. She regularly performs as a soloist with leading Czech and international orchestras (Brno Philharmonic, Moravian Philharmonic Olomouc, Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic, Brno Contemporary Orchestra, Moscow Contemporary Ensemble, UNT Orchestra, PluralEnsemble, Israel Contemporary Players) and records for Czech Radio. She works with outstanding conductors (A. Vinogradov, Z. Nagy, M. Tworek, C. Couturiaux, T. Hanus, L. Svárovský, P. Vronský, J. Klecker). In 2017 she recorded the solo CD De Profundis for Arta Records, which received enthusiastic responses for audiences and professional critics.

Violoncellist and composer Štěpán Filípek (b. 1981) is ranked among those progressive Czech artists with an international impact. Among his artistic high points at the beginning of the third decade of the twenty-first century are the realization of LUDICRA project at the Moravian Autumn Festival, his release of the CD 9, with compositions by nine Czech women composers, and the presentation of a prestigious recital at the Czech Embassy in Washington, DC. He completed degrees in violoncello at the Prague Conservator and at the Music Faculty of JAMU. Later he also studied composition at the Brno Conservatory and JAMU. As a chamber musician he has participated in recent years in the formation of several ensembles, for example, Trio Euterpé, Tango Quartetto Re Campo, and Bačová/Veverica/Filípek. He also regularly performs in duo with pianists Ondrej Olos and Katelyn Bouska. In addition, he has long collaborated with Czech Radio in documenting contemporary works for violoncello. He has performed as a soloist with the Pilsen Philharmonic, the Moravian Philharmonic Olomouc, the Brno Contemporary Orchestra, the choruses Gaudeamus Brno, Vox Iuvenalis and others. Many music festivals have invited him to participate as soloist or chamber musician, or have presented his works: Janáček Brno, Forfest, Hudební současnost, Setkávání Nové hudby, Melos-Éthos, Exposition of New Music, and others. Various personalities of the classical music world have dedicated works to Filípek - František Emmert, Radomír Ištvan, Jana Vöröšová, David Carpenter, Barry Wan, Daniel Kessner, and others. Štěpán plays a master-cello named “Imperio”, built in 2006 by the Brno luthier Jan Hus Bursík.

Thanks to Igor Ardašev, Libor Kučera and Mark Čermák for their invaluable advice on the study of the Bach gamba sonatas, and last but not least thanks to all the selfless patrons and sponsors, who, thanks to their generous contributions, made the album possible!

© Studio Svengali, July 2024
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