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Jonathan Woolf
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Jonathan Woolf
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Dux website


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin (ca. 1720)

CD 1 [76:20]
Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV1001 [17:51]
Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV1002 [32:19]
Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV1003 [26:08]
CD 2 [77:36]
Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV1004 [34:10]
Sonata No. 3 in C major, BWV1005 [23:51]
Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV1006 [19:31]
Michael Vaiman (violin)
rec. Schloss Gottesaue, Larlsruhe, March-April 2006  
DUX 0610/11 [76:20 + 77:36]


Experience Classicsonline

Prizewinning Russian violinist Michael Vaiman is not be confused with the late prize-winning Russian violinist Mikhail Vaiman. The latter, a contemporary of Boris Gutnikov, made numerous recordings but the contemporary Vaiman has made some as well – so confusion should be nipped in the bud.

Michael Vaiman was born in Odessa and studied with David Oistrakh. He won the Wieniawski competition and has had a sturdy career as a soloist and a good one as a pedagogue. Here he essays the Sonatas and Partitas of Bach in traversals recorded between March and April 2006.

His credentials are solid ones. His performances are in the beefy, slightly over-measured Romantic Russian tradition. There is great tonal breadth, strong bow pressure, myriad colouristic subtleties. It’s an approach that deigns to acknowledge Historically Informed Practice, and simply meets the works head on in the light of the musician’s own predilections and perceptions as to ‘his’ Bach. At a time when players such as Mutter, Vengerov and Mullova are utilising period practice in their performances it’s refreshing to find Vaiman solidly ploughing his increasingly lonely furrow.

Te corollary of all this is that the performances may sound rough hewn and big boned; that in promoting the romantic objectives of the Great Tradition Vaiman obscures or fails to engage with the dance patterns upon which the music is so obviously predicated. Those looking for lightness and grace will look in vain here. Bow pressure is consistently sinewy and ‘digging into the string’ the expected norm. If one looks instead for tonal grandeur and breadth then however one will not be disappointed.

A few specific examples then. The opening Adagio of the First Sonata is gravely deliberate, powerfully etched, bathed in rich vibrato. The articulation and voicings of the Fugue are measured. The Double of the First Partita is sonorous, nobly shaped. Its Sarabande is grave and the Bourrée has a patrician sense of space and no inclination at all to dance.  The Andante of Sonata No.2 has a noble, well-sustained profile. One could hardly call it rhythmically buoyant but as violin playing it’s highly impressive on its own terms.

The Allemande of the Second Partita is solemn, its Sarabande another example of Vaiman’s romantically etched depth of expression. The Chaconne is beautifully coloured and shaped – with a strong sense of dynamic variance, sometimes it has to be said at unexpected moments. The Fuga of the Third Sonata exhibits a trait that recurs from time to time – rhythmic heaviness. The Minuet of the Third Partita similarly could - and should - go with greater rhythmic energy.

There’s some ambient noise in the wide church acoustic but the violin tone emerges strongly and clearly despite that. Of older Romantics Shumsky still hold an honoured place; but even he, Grumiaux and Milstein in their very different ways sound classicist when heard alongside the fervour of Vaiman.

Jonathan Woolf



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