Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 25, 2011

Aston Magna

Simon's Rock, Great Barrington, MA
by Debra Tinkham

Daniel Stepner, violinist and Artistic Director, along with John Gibbons, harpsichordist, had their hands (and fingers) full at Bard College for Aston Magna's concert. They started with a J.S. Bach Sonata in E Major with four movements, with the first Adagio being slow. The most notable physical observation of this movement was Stepner’s lovely bowing hand position. Allegro had precise timing and the usual eye contact between performers was lacking during their upper and lower ranges of valuable dynamics. The delicacy and softness of the Adagio ma non tanto told a sweet story with harpsichord and violin echoing back and forth. Long tones and thirty-second notes were executed with passion and dexterity in some most difficult passages of the Allegro.

Bach’s Sonata in A minor was next performed by Stepner, who humbly stood for this arrangement and used no music. To many unfamiliar listeners of this sonata, this might not be the most pleasing to the ear with its complicated and enharmonic sounds, especially the Fuga, a fast second movement. The last movement, Allegro, was a very typical sounding “Bach Invention” with the vast execution of notes and patterns.

Bach’s Concerto Italian Style in F Major, in three movements, was played for solo harpsichord.  Gibbons executed this movement rather rapidly, with a slight glitch in fingering, at which he laughed at himself. (Otherwise, no one would have known.) The noticeably uneven tempo of the Andante suggested a strong struggle going on and ended with the familiar Presto.

Stepner returned to the stage performing Bach’s Sonata in F minor with Gibbons. The first movement, Largo, was so beautiful, dramatic, romantic and sad. Noticeable was the very subtle and graceful up bow entry of the violin. The second, third and fourth movements were typically Bach, but especially the second movement, Allegro, which was Bach-Invention-Duet-Style.

Last was the music of Bach’s son, CPE Bach, and his Sonata in C minor performed by Stepner and Gibbons. The first movement, allegro moderato, was a clear example of the C minor scale with slight variations and consistent recapitulations. Adagio ma non troppo had a glitch or two at the beginning, but Stepner made light of it and all went well.