Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin
Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001 [13.40]
Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002 [22.13]
Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003 [20.00]
Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004 [27.49]
Sonata No. 3 in C minor, BWV 1005 [20.34]
Partita No. 3 in E, BWV 1006 [18.36]
Cecylia Arzewski (violin)
rec. American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, 10-11 March and 27-28 May 2011
BRIDGE 9358 A/B [59.16 + 67.23]
Bach’s sonatas and partitas are certainly the best-known works written for solo violin. When a violin soloist in a concerto is looking for an encore to follow his or her performance, the chances are highly likely that the audience will be treated to one or more movements from one of these works. There have been a considerable number of other works written for solo violin, but the Bach pieces continue to reign supreme.
In fact they are not the most tractable of works written for this medium. Bach’s contrapuntal style, although he handles it with care and skill, does not fit easily onto the four strings of a solo violin. The instruments of Bach’s day, with their flatter bridges, allowed for a greater facility of double and triple stopping which allowed the composer to write independently for a number of different parts; but players using modern instruments have to compromise to a greater or lesser degree in how much of the contrapuntal writing they allow the listener to appreciate. In the end the many transcriptions of these movements for other medium, piano and so on, do permit the subtleties of the writing to be more readily understood. Nevertheless the sonatas and partitas remain to delight, to puzzle and to frustrate players and audiences alike.
In a personal note included in the booklet the Polish violinist here, Cecylia Arzewski, explains that she has attempted to be as faithful as possible to Bach’s style while employing a modern violin and bow. In this she has succeeded, but inevitably there are compromises involved. How much listeners will view these as disadvantages will depend largely on their own personal taste. As a guide one can only observe that Arzewski is less overtly romantic than some of her predecessors who have used modern instruments such as Arthur Grumiaux or Henryk Szeryng; but she is much more emotionally committed than many of the practitioners who have used period instruments. Many may regard her approach as an ideal sort of compromise, and the recording while close is not overwhelmingly so in a pleasantly resonant acoustic.
The booklet notes by Malcolm MacDonald are comprehensive and informative and add weight to a substantial performance.
Paul Corfield Godfrey
Much more emotionally committed than many period instrument practitioners … a substantial performance.
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