Isabelle Faust has gone back to the original manuscript sources to offer us her versions of these iconic masterpieces of the violin repertoire. In Bach s time, music for solo instruments was still little explored territory, and his Sonatas and Partitas immediately established themselves as a benchmark, technically challenging and brimming with creativity.
Finnish guitarist Timo Korhonen has already released his own arrangements of Bach’s solo violin sonatas. Now he turns his attention to the partitas and gives fascinating interpretations of these bottomless works. Any guitarist transcribing Bach has to contend with the spirit of Segovia but Korhonen manages convincingly to carve his own path in this music, even if he doesn’t quite shake off the shade of the Spanish master.
None of these reconstructions are included in Teldec’s Bach 2000, although the better-known ‘originals’ obviously are. The real newcomer is the Sinfonia, BWV1045 (5'34'') ‘to an unknown cantata’ which – as befits a BWV number that immediately precedes the First Brandenburg Concerto – is rumbustious, festive and thematically likeable. Time and again I could sense allusions to other Bach instrumental pieces, though the soloist’s ceaseless arpeggiating is sometimes a distraction. We’re told it’s authentic (the manuscript source suggests a violin concerto in the making) but something about its harmonic language doesn’t quite ring true, though that reaction might well be due to lack of familiarity.
No doubt many of you are wondering whether I should be recording Bach’s complete sonatas and partitas at the age of only 21. Perhaps I should have waited a bit longer? Well, patience has seldom been my strong point, and after all I have already waited a number of years for an opportunity to record these works. During the first six years of study with my teacher Ana Chumachenco, I studied the sonatas and partitas thoroughly, and first performed both cycles in their entirety in the Bach year 2000, during the course of two evenings at the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival.
'Testament' is Rachel Barton Pine's very personal homage to the music of J. S. Bach, on which she performs the composer's complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin in the acoustic of her hometown St. Pauls Church in Chicago, where she first heard and fell in love with Bach's music.
The star of the young Hungarian violinist Kristóf Baráti is quickly rising. Having won several important international competitions (the most recent first prize at the prestigious Paganini Competition in Moscow) he plays with important orchestras and conductors, like Charles Dutoit, Kurt Masur, Iván Fischer, Yuri Temirkanov and Marek Janowski. His recent recording of Beethoven’s complete violin sonatas with Klára Würtz received rave reviews: “5 stars…a great duo, comparable with Perlman/Ashkenazy, Grumiaux/Haskil, Ferras/Barbizet’ (Diapason), “A talent that comes along once in a decade, perhaps once in a generation, I don’t say it lightly, but once you’ve heard Baráti and Würtz you’ll never listen to anyone else again” (Fanfare). This recording of the great solo Bach was issued on Berlin Classics in 2009, and shows the sovereign command over the matter, and a deep understanding of the spirit of these masterworks.
The late Nathan Milstein’s 1975 stereo remake (DG mid-price) was his own preferred version of these pillars of the violin repertoire with which he had been so associated since his youth in Odessa. But his (broadly faster) mid-Fifties New York account, now remastered and restored by EMI, was a famous yardstick of its time – a grandly phrased, aristocratically structured, Romantically resonant statement to treasure beside Menuhin and Heifetz. These are epic virtuoso performances justifying Milstein’s view that with this music the performer could ‘bask in the most glamorous light’. Stylistically, purists will object to their expressive liberty and gesture. But few will be able to resist their artistry or intensity of delivery.
Sigiswald Kuijken has been a pioneer in performing and teaching Baroque violin technique. He and his brothers were all exposed to early instruments as youngsters. Sigiswald and Wieland intuitively taught themselves how to play the viola da gamba. Sigiswald studied violin at the conservatory in Bruges, then in Brussels with Maurice Raskin, earning his degree in 1964. After doing his own research into Baroque performance practice, Kuijken began playing Baroque works on the violin without using a chinrest or shoulder rest and, in fact, not using his chin at all to hold the instrument…
"Julia Fischer's solo Bach recordings add up to quite an impressive achievement for a 21-year-old violinist. Not only has she mastered her instrument on just about every level, but she also possesses an instinctive understanding of the rise and fall of Bach's melodies and how to project the composer's implied polyphony within a single line. (…) Julia Fischer's heartfelt and accomplished Bach playing is nothing less than world class, and so is PentaTone's surround-sound engineering." ~ClassicsToday.com
Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch is an unusually versatile violinist, predominantly known for her performance of period music but also excelling in many other styles and genres. Her position as concertmaster in the orchestra of Philippe Herreweghe is testament to her skill as an early music performer.