the booklet for this disc Robin Stowell describes how musicologists
and musicians from generations after Bach have dealt with his
six works for solo violin. He also refers to the so-called 'Bach
bow', with which violinists tried to realise the polyphony in
these compositions. And then he continues: "How refreshing
and fascinating it now is to be able to listen to the likes
of Jacqueline Ross performing these challenging works using
Bach's autograph as the principal source along with the form
of the instrument and bow that Bach would have employed!"
One would almost think this is a fully new development. But
there are many recordings with period instruments available,
and the oldest date from more than forty years ago! And does
anyone still believe that the 'Bach bow' has any historical
three partitas and three sonatas for violin solo were composed
at the latest in 1720, when Bach lost his position as 'Hofkapellmeister'
in Cöthen. There is no certainty as to why Bach wrote them.
Some suggest he may have played them during concerts at the
court in Cöthen. That is a possibility: Bach was a most accomplished
violinist after all. But it is also possible Bach did not have
performances in mind when he wrote these works. They could also
be considered explorations of various compositional techniques
as well as of the possibilities of the instrument. In that case
one could compare them with keyboard works like the Wohltemperirte
Clavier or the Kunst der Fuge.
these six solos Bach pays tribute to the two national styles
then dominant in Europe. In the three Sonatas he links up with
the Italian 'sonata da chiesa'. They all consist of four movements
(slow-fast-slow-fast), the second of which is a fugue. The three
Partitas are influenced by the French style and consist of dance
movements; the number of movements increases from four (Partita
No. 1) to six (Partita No. 3). In particular the second is modelled
after the French suite as it closes with an extended chaconne.
Despite the Italian and French influences these solos have an
unmistakable German flavour, in particular because of the use
is the second volume of the complete recording of Bach's Sonatas
and Partitas for violin solo; the first volume I am not acquainted
with. When I started listening there were several aspects of
her performances which I noticed with satisfaction. She seems
to be well aware of the rhetorical nature of these compositions,
and as a result adopts a strongly speaking style of playing,
in line with the baroque principle of 'music as speech'. I like
the clear articulation and the differentiation between good
and bad notes. Other positive aspects are a good sense of rhythm
and the contrast between and within movements, although I think
this could be stronger, for instance within the chaconne from
the Partita No. 2. I would also have liked to hear more dynamic
shades. The preludio of the Partita No. 3 is played with panache,
and I really liked the dancing rhythm of the gavotte en rondeau.
The menuets of this partita are also very well done, with some
there is definitely a lot to enjoy. But there is one thing which
bothers me: Ms Ross tends to give too much emphasis to the first
note of chords, which sometimes makes them fall apart. As a
result the rhythmic pulse, which I admire in these interpretations,
is sometimes undermined. That is certainly the case in the fugue
of the Sonata No. 3: the emphasis on the first note of the chord
adds a fraction to the time of the chord and disrupts the rhythm,
which otherwise is well realised. As I can't believe this is
a technical shortcoming, it must be a deliberate artistic decision,
which I don't understand.
far I haven't heard a recording which satisfies me in every respect,
and maybe such an interpretation is an illusion anyway. Keeping
that in mind I do not hesitate in recommending this recording.
It should be ranked among the best available, at least on the
basis of this second volume.
Johan van Veen