Johann Sebastian BACH (1685–1750)
Partitas for solo violin (arr. Timo Korhonen)
CD 1 [62:16]
Partita No. 1 in B minor BWV 1002 [31:10]
Partita No. 2 in D minor BWV 1004 [31:06]
CD 2 [21:07]
Partita No. 3 in E major BWV 1006 [21:07]
Timo Korhonen (guitar)
rec. Church of St Lawrence, Lohja, Finland 11-12 July 2009
ONDINE ODE 1164-2D [62:16 + 21-07]

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.

Naturally he exploits the full range of the guitar’s powers and so can do things that a violinist cannot, such as arpeggiating many of the broken chords, lending the music a very different feel: the opening Allemanda of the first partita sounds positively Spanish, for example. However some movements definitely work better than others. Generally I found the faster movements more convincing than the slow ones: the slow opening of the second partita sounds languid and droopy, though the faster Corrente which follows works a lot better. The same is true for the slow-fast pair that follow. The extra harmonies lent by a guitar are exploited in the quicker elements and take us pretty far from the world of the unaccompanied violin. There is a lovely carefree element to the famous opening of the third partita, for example, the “held” notes spinning a lovely web around the music and creating an effect that is impossible with the violin. The same trick works beautifully in the Menuets. The great Chaconne from the second partita comes across very well, the interplay of the various lines being more easily delineated with the guitar; consequently the listener has a fuller sense of the astonishing counterpoint.

So this is certainly worth exploring if you’re willing to try the partitas on a guitar, though it seems rather profligate to spill the project over onto two discs for the sake of an extra three minutes! Most retailers seem to be selling the set as two-for-the-price-of-one, however, so don’t let this put you off.

Simon Thompson

Certainly worth exploring if you’re willing to try the partitas on a guitar