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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonatas and Partitas for Violin BWV 1001 - 1006

Sonata No. 1 in G minor BWV 1001 [14.44]
Partita No. 1 in B minor BWV 1002 [21.34]
Sonata No. 2 in A minor BWV 1003 [21.13]
Partita No. 2 in D minor BWV1004 [25.51]
Sonata No. 3 in C major BWV1005 [23.43]
Partita No. 3 in E major BWV1006 [15.55]
Garrett Fischbach (violin)
rec. Upper Ridgewood Community Church, Ridgewood, New Jersey, 2002-04
GARRETT FISCHBACH [57.51 + 65.29]

Garrett Fischbach is a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestraís viola section and has been a member successively of the National Symphony and San Francisco orchestras. This production is his own and he is the producer; the engineer was Darryl Kubian and the recordings were made in Upper Ridgewood Community Church, Ridgewood, New Jersey, though the aural perspective changes, as the violinist admits, according to his imperatives at the time. Sometimes itís relatively reverberant and at other times rather more chilly and upfront. His are performances of obvious commitment and heís clearly given thought to essentials such as ornamentation, articulation, colour and some matters of performance practice.

These are also very individual performances. Clearly a capable musician he is here attempts a Parnassus-storming undertaking, which has taxed names far more grandiose than his own. Letís consider the G minor Sonata. Thereís a wisp of ambient noise Ė of little account Ė and the occasional fingerboard incident (equally passing and trivial) in the opening Adagio. But one can feel here immediately his circumscribed tonal resources and a very dampened approach to dynamics and to questions of projection. In Fugues one finds a certain brittleness of tone and a rather static quality generally with intonation wavering from time to time. Thereís also a certain degree of scratchy tone with which to contend and in the G minorís Fugue some very individualised sul ponticello playing; it sounds very odd. In movements like the Siciliano he does tend to be rather slow and to lose impetus; here his lower strings are not as responsive as his upper and he can sound a mite lugubrious. Heís at his happiest in Prestos and fast movements generally though the obverse is a degree of motoric playing that turns Prestos more into etudes than anything.

I donít think point-by-point analysis will much expand on the specifics of the first Sonata because it majorly encapsulates his playing as a whole. I found the mike placement for the B minor Partita rather encouraged airlessness and tended to thin his tone. Thereís little sense of projection in these very reserved readings. Accents are muted (try the Largo of the C major Sonata), contrasts absent (Grave of the A minor Sonata) and phraseology never really coheres (Minuets I and II from the E major Partita). To all of which Fischbach seems to have been determined to sever inflexions, colouristic potential and tensile strength from his performances. The great Chaconne of the second Partita passes by almost as a study in indifference.

Whatever Fischbachís imperatives in these works Iím afraid his decision-making does not convince me; I hope others feel very differently.

Jonathan Woolf


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