Henry Eccles Sonata in G minor.

Daly can surely make his instrument “sing,” and that in itself is a miracle” THE ART MUSIC LOUNGE—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley


When Henry Eccles (ca.1675-ca.1742) published his “Premier Livre de sonatas à violon seul et la basse” in 1720, half of the sonata movements therein were actually by other composers. In the Sonata No.11 in G minor, the second movement was by Francesco Antonio Bonporti, a contemporary of Eccles. And Eccles was not the only composer pilfering Bonporti’s music around this time - J.S. Bach also transcribed four movements for harpsichord from the same set of inventions used by Eccles. Rediscovered and republished by the musicologist Alfred Moffat in 1905, this delightful work began a new lease of life, being subsequently transcribed for many different instruments during the C20th, though becoming a particular favourite among double bassists.

When Paul and I came to look at this often performed sonata (at least insofar as double bassists are concerned) we went to look at the original published edition in Imslp. I was astonished to find so many changes of phrasing, which of course had crept in over the centuries. As well as phrasing though there were quite a few examples of different notes and rhythms. The greatest difference though had to be the piano accompaniment. The original has a simple figured bass of course, which would have allowed the solo line to have compete prominence. The Moffat edition which forms the basis for most of the editions through the 20c has a very fanciful piano part which in some ways would have been more the style of sonata accompaniments in the late Victorian era when the Moffatt edition was published.

However at no point am I suggesting this recording is an ‘authentic’ version. Even apart from the fact that I am playing a violin sonata on the double bass, that is not my style of playing. However in the baroque era it would have been very common for different instruments to play repertoire originally written for another instrument. There are very early editions of this sonata in arrangements for flute, cello and oboe as well as the original violin. The one thing that perhaps distinguishes this sonata though is just how many times it has been transcribed for, and this for an incredibly wide range of instruments with at least 45 different editions published in the twentieth century. And interesting observation from all these publications is that none of them treat the sonata as if it were from the early eighteenth century but are rather ever new recreations of the original. 

“his mastery of his instrument is never in question” THE ART MUSIC LOUNGE—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

For anyone looking to learn about the incredible performance history of this beautiful sonata I would recommend looking at the wonderful study done by Eleanor F. McCrickard of Greensboro University. She very kindly sent me a copy some years back but it has now become available for all to read on JSTOR. Click here to access the PDF.