We’ve been rehearsing string trio arrangements of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto and Vivaldi’s L’Estro Harmonico in Peterborough this week, for a Fedora Strings’ recording in June. Though the Vivaldi is not suitable for wedding ceremony music, the slow movement of the Bach is ideal.
These pieces were originally written for string orchestra, continuo and two violin soloists, yet a trio version still sounds dynamic and exciting. Of course it means you have to know your part inside out, but imaginative ideas that you could never get away with in a larger group work well for a smaller ensemble. I suppose the reality is that the music is so marvellous that it would be effective in almost any string combination.
It’s interesting that however outstanding composers are today, they will never be greater than composers from the past. The same applies to art, literature and architecture. Who is going to paint more powerfully than Michelangelo, Caravaggio or Leonardo de Vinci? Who will write more sensitively and creatively than Shakespeare? What building is more beautiful than St Paul’s Cathedral?
Superb artistry doesn’t seem to be something humans are going to ever improve on, just do differently. I don’t find this idea depressing, just reassuring somehow. I expect it applies to performance too, although we’ll never know for sure. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were recordings from the 17th century?