Edith Hines, violin † John Chappell Stowe, organ and harpsichord


Ensemble SDG, a violin and keyboard duo formed in 2009,

performs music spanning the entire Baroque period, with a

particular focus on the works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Monday, April 17, 2017

J.S. Bach Works for Violin and Keyboard: Program Notes

We are pleased to announce that the Program Notes for our recording of J.S. Bach's known works for violin and keyboard are available through our DOWNLOADS page. You may choose either the CD Booklet format or the Document format. This is available to you free of charge.

The Program Notes include background information on Bach's relationship with violin-playing of the early eighteenth century and on many of our interpretative choices for the recording. As far as we can determine this is the first recording of these works that includes performances of both BWV 1019a and 1018a with organ, and we believe it reasonable that this could have been the original intention for these early versions. This recording is unique in that we have recorded Bach's re-arrangement of lutenist Silvius Leopold Weiss's Suite in A major on Lautenwerk with violin, a very likely performance possibility in Bach's time. What is more, our recording includes a performance of the Sonata in E minor, BWV 1023 with an organ in mean-tone temperament with sub-semitones—again a real possibility for performance during one of JSB's many trips to Dresden before 1737. Your comments and questions are welcome, but above all our performances are for your enjoyment.

We continue to investigate these issues further. Should you have deeper inquiries about the paths taken to reach our conclusions, feel free to contact me and I'm sure that I will learn a great deal from our conversation.

John Chappell Stowe

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


We are excited to officially announce that our recording of J.S. Bach's works for violin and keyboard has now been released in its entirety! Arabesque Records has released the three volumes of the recording, available for MP3 download through Arabesque Records here or through GooglePlay, Spotify, iTunes, or Amazon. So far physical CD's are not available commercially, but please contact John Chappell Stowe should you like for us to provide you with CD's.

Most recordings of Bach's violin and keyboard works include the six obbligato sonatas, BWV 1014--1019. We have included those with harpsichord, but also offer earlier versions of BWV 1018 and 1019 as violin and organ obbligato works. Edith and I believe there is sufficient evidence that Bach may have intended them as such, and we are grateful to the congregation and staff of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas for facilitating our access to the parish's very special Noack organ for the recording. Also in the collection are the beautiful Sonata in G major, BWV 1021, the fascinating Sonata in E minor, BWV 1023 (performed on the lovely Brombaugh meantone organ in Fairchild Chapel, Oberlin College) and the unique Suite in A major, BWV 1025 performed with violin and Lautenwerk.

Since liner notes for the recording are not yet available online, we will be adding a link to them on this page in a few days. In the notes we discuss our choices of texts for the music, our decisions on instrumentation, details about the instruments used, and considerable background on the composer and the music.We hope you find the notes interesting and helpful in listening to the music.

The recording is a product of years of labor, and was central to our development as a duo ensemble. Your joyful reception of the music is important to us! Speaking for myself, sharing the energy and spirit of Bach's music with you is one way of reminding the world of God's glory in a time when many people are struggling to remain joyful and faithful.

Dip into the music on Ensemble SDG's new release and, if you like, give us some feedback. We'd love to hear from you.


 John Chappell Stowe

Where Have You Been, Ensemble SDG?

We've heard this question, and apologies for not keeping you up to date on what's happening!

There is lots of news to share, but let's start with who and where we are. In May, 2015 Edith was married to Kyle Williams of Akron, Ohio. They are now happy residents of Akron and building a family! Details forthcoming.

What that means is that, for the time being, Ensemble SDG is not performing as a duo. Should that change (!) we will update you on projects and performances. WATCH FOR VOLUME 3 OF OUR BACH RECORDING, OUT SOON ON ARABESQUE RECORDS!

Thank you all for your support and your very great patience.

John Chappell Stowe

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

C. P. E. Bach tricentennial tribute

In the month of March 2014 we celebrate the 300th anniversary of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (born March 8, 1714) with a recital of his music along with works by three of his close contacts: his famous father, Johann Sebastian Bach (also with a birthday this month); his godfather, Georg Philipp Telemann; and one of his colleagues, Johann Gottlieb Graun.

C. P. E. Bach himself will be represented by two “trios” for violin and obbligato keyboard: in D minor, Wq 72, and in C minor, Wq 78. This instrumentation is clearly modeled on his father’s “trios for two,” in which the harpsichordist’s right hand takes the second solo line. The audience will have the opportunity also to hear J. S. Bach’s trio (sonata) in C minor, BWV 1017—a sharp contrast with his son’s music in the same key. We will also perform one of Telemann’s “Methodical Sonatas” (no. 12, in C major) and Graun’s rarely heard trio for viola and obbligato keyboard.

We will present the program twice in Madison: on Saturday, March 22, at 7:00 p.m. at the Chocolaterian Cafe (2004 Atwood Avenue); and on Sunday, March 23, at 3:00 p.m. at the Madison Public Library (Central Library, Room 301, 201 W. Mifflin Street). Both performances are free, although donations will be gratefully accepted at the Chocolaterian. Not to mention, of course, that the Chocolaterian would appreciate your patronage—and we can affirm that when you look at the menu or in the bakery case, you may find it difficult not to oblige!

We will also be guests on radio station WORT’s Musica Antiqua, with host Alan Muirhead, on Sunday, March 9. The program runs from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m., and our interview and in-studio performance will be 10:00–10:30. Tune in at 89.9 FM in Madison, or listen online.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Recording progress

We are getting closer to releasing our recording (nearly four years in the making) of the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach for violin and keyboard. The actual recording of the music was finished in May 2012 (see "A busy summer"), but we have now finished editing the tracks (and—this was the fun part—determining the timing between them) and are working on mixing and mastering them. Thanks to Buzz Kemper of Madison's Audio for the Arts for his excellent and patient work on this phase of the project (in addition to being the engineer for all our in-town recording sessions)!

Also in progress is the writing of the liner notes. If you've read the program notes for any of our recitals, you can guess why this step is taking a while.

We are pleased to have a label under which the album will be released once it's finished; for that important detail, stay tuned for our announcement of the project's completion.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fringe Concert redux

We should have posted about last Friday’s recital before the better part of six days had gone by, but the days were too filled with concerts, exhibition-related activities, and travel to write about the highlight of our Boston trip.  And yes, it was a highlight: the performance went well, we had a most appreciative audience, and all instrument makers involved were pleased with the collaboration.

Here is the final list of instrument makers:
Warren Ellison (violin after N. Amati)
Timothy G. Johnson (violin after A. Amati)
Dmitry Badiarov and apprentices (violin)
Gabriela Guadalajara (violin after Stainer)
Daniel Larson (violin after A. Amati)
Francis Beaulieu (piccolo violin)
A. David Moore (continuo organ)

You can visit the Gamut Music website to watch a short video taken by Daniel Larson of the opening sections of “The Ascension.”

Edith had a grand time visiting the luthiers’ exhibit booths on Saturday to try out their violins in normal tuning and on other repertoire (Bach and Fontana).  Now that she could listen to the violins without an agenda of matching them to specific pieces, she enjoyed hearing how much each instrument’s sound had opened up after having been played for a couple of weeks (and, in some cases, having had slight adjustments).  She found herself equally disappointed and relieved not to be in the market for a new instrument!

One of the wonderful aspects of Friday’s recital, as well as the previous Saturday’s in Madison, was the opportunity to feature readings of biblical prophecies relating to each of the “portraits” in our program—whether predicting the event itself or sharing an “affect” with the respective partita—and to print the events’ narratives along with the program notes:
Annunciation—Isaiah 7:14 with Luke 1:26–38
Presentation—Isaiah 42:6–7 with Luke 2:25–35
Resurrection—Job 19:25 with Matthew 28:1–10
Descent of the Holy Spirit—Joel 2:28–29 with selections from Acts 2

Our thanks to Murray Somerville for gracing the Boston performance with his readings, and to the Rev. Franklin Wilson for doing so in the Madison performance.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Piccolo violin

When I (Edith) proposed our upcoming demonstration recital to a number of luthiers earlier this spring, one maker who was interested was Francis Beaulieu of Montreal.  However, being primarily a viol maker, he told me he wouldn't have a standard violin available at BEMF—but he would have a piccolo violin.  I have never even heard live, much less played, a piccolo violin, which is a small violin tuned a minor third higher than the standard violin and known primarily for its solo role in Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 1.  Still, since I've wanted for a while to try my hand at the instrument, I have been eagerly anticipating the opportunity for the last two months.

This afternoon I finally got to meet Beaulieu and try out the instrument.  It was even smaller than I was expecting (body length approximately one-third less than a full-size violin), but strangely not as difficult to finger as I had feared.  (No, my first few attempts were not exactly in tune, but gradually the pitches became recognizable!)  And a comparison with the other violins I'll be playing showed that the piccolo violin should be able to hold its own alongside them—provided it can hold its own under the other performance conditions (namely, in a large church and with an organ).  The final decision will have to wait, then, until our rehearsal on Thursday evening, but I'm hopeful.