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Jonathan Woolf
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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto BWV in A minor 1041 (1717-23) [16:11]
Violin Concerto BWV in E major1042 (1717-23) [18:08]
Double Concerto for Two Violins in D minor BWV 1043 [15:31]
Chaconne from the Violin Partita in D minor BWV 1004 [14:37]
Yehudi Menuhin (violin)
George Enescu (violin) (BWV 1043)
Orchestre Symphonique de Paris/George Enescu
Orchestre Symphonique de Paris/Pierre Monteux (BWV 1043)
rec. Paris, 1932 (BWV 1043), 1933 (BWV 1042), 1936 (BWV 1041) and 1934 (BWV 1004)
Experience Classicsonline

Iím not going to detain you long regarding these classic performances. They show the young Menuhin in seraphic form, marshalled by his then teacher Enescu in the two solo concertos. The older man then joins his pupil for the Double Concerto and as a bonus Ė quite some bonus Ė we hear the Chaconne from the 1934 recording of the D minor Partita. As one who feels that Menuhinís Bach playing grew in spiritual depth the older he became and that, despite deficiencies and technical limitations, those later performances take precedence over the ones made in the 1930s, nevertheless I listened to these early recordings with renewed admiration. Iíve just watched Menuhin and Oistrakh playing the Bach Double in Paris on an EMI DVD; to see Oistrakhís gentle half smile at one of Menuhinís most meltingly beautiful exchanges is to witness the kind of peer affection and admiration in which he was held. Even in the mid-1960s, on good days, he could play Bach as tenderly and as beautifully as any of his contemporaries.

So this GROC incarnation should be welcome. Andrew Walter is a restoration expert I admire but I find this disc, as Iíve also found his restoration of Edwin Fischerís 48 Ė to be decidedly not my cup of tea. Iíve not always held with LP audiophile grousing about CDs and specifically about the artificial nature of the sound, though direct A/B comparison of restorations from 78 do often thrown up unaccountable errors of over-filtering and the like. But perhaps for the first time I understood what a "tiring" transfer really means. At the end of seventy-five minutes I felt bludgeoned. I donít know what "noise-shaped via the Prism SNS system for optimum sound quality" actually means in English but if itís what has been done to these recordings then Iím going for a walk to my LP and 78 shelves.

Keith Hardwick transferred these concertos in 1978 and the Sonatas and the Partitas on EX 7693771. I dare say they could be improved upon a little. But they are so musically and sonically superior to these GROC ones it gives one pause; has noise reduction just been switched on at the beginning and off at the end? The results of this unfortunate noise suppression system are these; Menuhinís tone sounds shrill and brittle; thereís a promotion of a piercing over brightness; thereís correspondingly an airless dull sound, and a top-heavy, headache-inducing sound patina. My own preferences, need I say, strongly lie elsewhere.

Jonathan Woolf


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